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Friday, July 29, 2011

COME, HEED, LISTEN & LIVE!


18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
July 31, 2011

N.B.This reflection is dedicated to my 30 students of Fundamental Morals, 1st semester, SY 2011-2012 at DON BOSCO CENTER OF STUDIES, PARANAQUE CITY, Philippines

I write as I proctor the final exams of my students in a condensed course on Fundamental Moral Theology, feeling happy that it is done, whilst at the same time feeling sad, not that it's over, but that there remains so much to cover. I cannot deny that the recent events in my country have posed without let-up so many social and personal moral issues that lent so much relevance and timeliness to the topics we were discussing in class.

We were engaged on a daily basis since classes began, in an ongoing attempt at doing a "fusion of horizons" a la Gadamer - to allow the cold and dry principles of moral reflection come to life in the concrete - if, depressing - realities that jut out of the major dailies and which dot the airlanes almost to the point of saturation.

Some of my friends mistakenly think that I am a pessimist when I write. They only see the "negativities" that they think I expose in my homilies. They don't see that before I can give them the good news, I have to start with the bad news, sort of, and do, like I said above, a fusion of horizons in Gadamer's tradition.

A homily should breach the gnawing gap between the two ... God's horizon and the sinful, weak, and broken human horizon.

Let us start, at the risk of being passed off as a pessimist, with the human horizon ... What do we see? A world battered by sinfulness ... a pacifist country like Norway whose tradition of pacifism gets shattered all of a sudden by a home-grown terrorist who simply snuffed out the lives of 92 people in a few minutes ... a world of bullies who thrown their weight around where resources are available, never mind if the territory being claimed is also claimed by other countries ... governments in a deadlock, with parties fighting each other for supremacy in the next general elections, never mind if the whole world is teetering on edge on account of the precarious economic situation ... a country like ours where cases of corruption and abuse of power slowly unravel threatening to totally undermine all confidence in institutions and structures of governance and the power of the state to push forward the common good.

The human horizon is nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else but the condition of Eden all over again.

But let us see the Divine horizon ... We see it as a situation of Eden in reverse, not from the point of view of Adam and Eve who did the unthinkable, but from the point of view of God, walking in the cool afternoon breeze, asking that soul-searching and caring question: "Where are you, Adam?" This, as far as we can tell, is not a statement of condemnation, but a caring question that shows the solicitude of a loving and forgiving God, who calls, invites, and gently prods us all to gradual realization.

This is the good news that juts out of the first reading ... In six sentences, the word "come" was used 4 times. The invitation is addressed to the "thirsty," the penniless,  the hungry. And the whole point of the invitation leads to the concept of "covenant," an agreement shattered by sin, but a contract that God wants to be "renewed."

This call is personal and essential. Whilst sin divides and separates, the call to love unites, and breaches the gnawing gap between us and God. Indeed, it is so binding and unifying and powerful that St. Paul rhetorically and passionately asks his readers: "What will separate us from the love of Christ?" His answer? Nothing!

Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ ... not massive corruption of people then and now ... not the manipulative and untruthful media who can be paid by PR experts and spin masters to "shock and awe" unsuspecting and clueless masses, and who are led to believe whatever lie is repeated often enough that becomes truth ... not tabloidism and cheap sensationalism even from the highest officer of the land who seems to revel in bombshells that destroy people's reputation all on account of  poorly studied half-truths that then become dogma to most people ... not anguish at the realization that our country has been taken for a ride by greedy, selfish, and self-serving "public servants" who only bled the country dry for years, even decades! ... not persecution, including the kind of Catholic Church bashing that seems to be fashionable nowadays, done even by individuals who describe themselves as catholics, mind you, "with a clear conscience!" ... not famine for so many poor people who can only afford to feast on low quality food that slowly makes them sicker and sicker, and thus, poorer! .... not nakedness suffered by teeming masses who have no solid and reliable roofs over their heads, whose shanties are good only till the next heavy rains that now are getting more and more frequent ... not peril that seems to be the worst nightmare of everyone who seems to be so vulnerable to organized crimes syndicates that have connections with people in high places ... not the sword of those who can kill the body, but not the soul, including the swords of political families who have for decades staked their permanent claim to "public service" in their respective constituencies ...

St. Paul tells that there is simply nothing that "will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Need I say more? Indeed, God does! Not even suffering by beheading could separate John the Baptist from the God he served faithfully. The Gospel tells us that not even distance could matter to people who had set out to heed, listen and seek words that led to life in its fullness ... The people that hung on the lips of the Lord, followed him, and went walking on the other side of the lake, only to listen to him speak, and teach, and preach.

Yes, there is more ... Not even a deserted place  with no provisions could prevent the Lord from effecting a miracle of sustenance. He became an instant caterer and produced food from the meager resources like five loaves and two fish that the resourceful disciples had discovered and offered!

This is the horizon that I wish to leave with you today. This is the good news I would want my students to take home with them from this day onwards ... a message that I ended my formal classes with yesterday, summed up in that beautiful Il Divo song that speaks of hope ...

I would like to believe that God speaks to us today with endearing words that say: COME, HEED, LISTEN, & LIVE! I would like, furthermore, to believe that it is now His turn to tell us JE CROIS EN TOI! (I BELIEVE IN YOU!)

Tout seul, tu t'en iras tout seul;
Coeur ouvert a l'univers!
Poursuis ta quete sans regarder derriere
N'attends pas que le jour se leve
Suis ton etoile, va jusqu'on ton reve t'emporte
Un jour tu le toucheras. si tu crois, si tu crois, si tu crois en toi!

Suis la lumiere; n'eteins pas la flamme que te portes;
Au fonds de toi souviens-toi
Que je crois, que je crois, que je crois en toi!

(All alone, you will go your way alone
But go with a heart open to the universe!
Follow your dream without looking back
No need to wait for the day to shine.
Follow your star, go where your dreams lead you.
One day you will touch it, if you believe in yourself.

Follow your light; do not put off the flame you carry
Deep inside you, remember
That I believe, I believe, I believe in you!)



Friday, July 22, 2011

AN UNDERSTANDING HEART TO JUDGE AND DISCERN

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time(A)
July 24, 2011

Last week, I gave free rein to the hope that is in me despite the so many problems that beset the Church, the country, on account of the saints and sinners (including me) that make up the Church, almost brought down to her knees by a barrage of media-instigated, PR machinery guided demolition job that started with two letters of request from a Bishop addressed to the former President. A “lapse of judgment” on his part, along with the well-meaning requests born of real needs from far-flung mountainous and remote dioceses both in the north and the south, became cannon fodder for a PR firm intent and bent on humiliating the institutional Church.

The 7 bishops responded to the humiliating half-truths that were, as usual, worse than whole lies, by resorting to the Christian way – by humbling themselves even more, even as they spoke out the truth in charity. They begged for apologies to the people of God, both to those who remained loyal believers who chose steadfastly to belong to a Church populated by saints and sinners, and to those who claimed to believe, but who really never belonged, by choosing to believe only those truths that pleased them and suited them.


The bishops chose to follow the spirit of King Solomon, who begged the Lord Yahweh for “an understanding heart to judge [your people], and to distinguish right from wrong.” This, the bishops asked, even as they begged the people who were hurt and offended by the turn of events, for apologies.


Wisdom … This is what Solomon begged for, and got from the Lord. God was definitely One who would be generous when it comes to requests that are not self-serving, not self-aggrandizing, but favors that would stand to benefit others. Today, we thank this same God, for in the words of St. Paul, “we know that all things work for good for those who love God.”


We thank God for the wisdom of our leaders to “walk humbly before the Lord” and His people. They were not guilty of any illegal activity. Just about the only thing blameworthy on anyone’s part was just that one “lapse of judgment,” that, if anything, only proved that that bishop was apparently too close for comfort to the woman then in power. Just about the only thing that we can pin him on, was about the imprudence and the impropriety in asking for an SUV, presumably, not for his own personal use, but for the use of the office of the Bishop, who, after all, was engaged in duties, not limited to pastoral, but also tasks that went beyond his office in a wide territorial area.


We thank God that the truth came out. We thank God that this sordid affair happened, for it backfired on the very ones who spent half a billion pesos to implicate the institutional Church with the massive misappropriation of funds, for which the 6.9 millions, all told, appeared puny and minuscule, given the almost two billions they need to account for.


We thank God for the gift of the paschal mystery of the Risen Lord. Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled, crucified … He died and rose triumphant. God’s answer to this humiliation was further humility, further pain, further suffering on the part of His Son. Treated like the ugly and worthless suffering servant, he was humiliated, and his response was to be humbled even more – humility that was utter foolishness whose height of was reached in the utter folly of the cross, but whose soaring product was wisdom that came from the school of suffering.


Wisdom … this is the sort that comes from the certainty that everything works for the good for all those who love God.


Wisdom …  this is the capacity of people who can discern between right and wrong, and not reduce morality to a media blitz, a Pharisaical trial by publicity, even if the “facts” presented are invented and padded, and made more sensational to attract the feeding frenzy of people who, in the first place, refused to belong, even as they claim to believe.

Wisdom … this is what we need to understand that the Church we belong to is the Kingdom-of-God-in-waiting, the Kingdom-now-here but whose fulfillment is not yet ours. This is what we need to understand that this same institutional Church is one where, like in the sea, one can catch all kinds of fishes, some good, some bad; some promising, and some rotten to the core, but all on the way towards definitive salvation.

Wisdom … this is what Solomon begged for. This is what we all need to beg God for, for us to understand that this Kingdom is compared to a treasure buried in the field, that we all need to work so that it becomes ours!

Wisdom … this is what we need, to be able to discern right from wrong; to be able to tell the sensational and the spurious, designed to instigate anger and suspicion, and the true and the beautiful – if hurtful – so that all may be uplifted to faith, hope, and love.

I submit one of the seven bishops did an imprudent act – to dance paltsy waltsy with the woman then in power. I submit there was also some imprudence in accepting money from PCSO. I submit that not all of us priests (including me) are shining examples of holiness and simplicity. I submit that we need more than just a dose of humility and other virtues.


But even as we, your pastors, now ask the Lord for wisdom “to judge the people and to distinguish right from wrong,” I beg the Lord the same for the lay faithful, including those who claim to believe, but who really do not belong, including those who claim to be catholics, but who decided to “teach the Bishops a lesson for going against the RH Bill” …


Yes, in this Mass, we beg the Lord for this wisdom, like Solomon did … like we all do right now, so that we ALL, including the lay faithful, may understand that at the end, there will be a final reckoning, and that there will be a final separation between worthy and unworthy members that will take place at the end of time. And when that time comes, it is not only the seven bishops who will be held accountable, but each and everyone of us, accusers and the accused, the maligners and the maligned, the wheat and the weeds, the good and the bad.


That means “you and I.”

Friday, July 15, 2011

CALLED TO BE, CALLED TO BECOME IN THIS VALLEY OF TEARS!



16th Sunday in Ordinaty Time (A)
July 17, 2011

CALLED TO BE, CALLED TO BECOME IN THIS VALLEY OF TEARS!

Patience is what the readings lead me to reflect on today, even as I wait patiently for a delayed flight to Cebu, where a task awaits me over the weekend. Patience is what I needed to have all through the week, as once again, I saw how a powerful PR machinery has all but reduced the Catholic Church to a humiliating, defensive stance, beset by unfair, and, for the most part, untruthful, accusations involving two separate issues: SUVs or so-called luxury vehicles, and supposedly illegal receipt of funds from the state-run and state-owned lotteries.

The accusations later turned out to be duds, inventions and machinations of a PR team that was apparently well-funded, who did their homeworks, and almost succeeded to pull off a caper consisting of half-truths and suggested associations with a much-hated and also much maligned former president.

Despite the clarifications that ensued in the Senate investigation last Wednesday, the damage has been done. Most of the Filipino people believed what manipulative media and certain personalities in media who hammered on the issue of the "Pajero 7" "Mitsubishops" kept on saying - just one more case of a big lie that when repeated often enough, at a certain point became truth.

Despite the apologies of one of the 7 whose "lapse of judgment" led him to ask for help from the President then, the moniker stuck ... Pajero bishops, Mitsubishops, and other unsavory titles some of which had nothing to do at all with the issue at hand. Those who hated the Church to begin with, appeared to have gotten a few more weapons in their growing arsenal, and those of us who believed all along in the Church as a community of saints and sinners, a field where there are real plants and tares, and wheats and weeds, were at a loss trying to defend what reputation was left for the institution that was hated by those who have always hated her, and loved by those who have always understood the fact that the "Kingdom-in-the-making" encompassed both saints and sinners.

Saints ... we have them in the Church, here, there, and everywhere. Sanctity is alive and well ... holiness is thriving in the Church founded by Jesus Christ. The ordinarily snotty bishops, whose stature, real or imagined, is made bigger by their miters and croziers, were humbled ... And humble, I might add, a number of them really are.

Saints ... I see them from where I stand ... people who keep on believing despite the bad examples of their leaders, their priests and pastors, who keep on believing the holiness of the Church, despite it all, because the founder Himself, Jesus Christ, is holy and undefiled.

Saints ... I see them in former students of decades back who refuse to give in to discouragement and despair seeing how much maligned the institutional Church is for speaking about and standing up for moral truth. I am awed by how erudite and passionate some of them have become in seeking for personal holiness, and seeing the richness of the liturgy of a Church that is seen as less than holy by those who simply refuse to believe what they have set out from the very start as not worthy of belief.

Sinners .... I see it in mendacious media practitioners who claim to be catholics, but who choose what to believe in ... I see it also in some of our leaders, who are guilty not only of "lapses of judgement" but who foray a little bit too much into the controversial world of partisan politics. I see it in pastors who become a little too friendly and cozy with rich friends who can give them what they ask for, including, as we have seen of late, Mitsubishi Monteros and other worldly goods.

Sinners ... I see it in people who sacrifice even the reputation of a whole institution just to cover up their own shenanigans crying out to high heavens for justice. I see it in criminal high profile families who suddenly, like the proverbial leopard changing their spots, turn a new leaf and ask to be made into state witness, like as if everyone in the country was born yesterday.

Sinners ... I see it in the deeply embedded and hydra-headed institutionally built-in world of corruption in and out of government, from top to bottom, where after they are caught with their hands in the cookie jar, just about everyone gets a sudden medical condition, and goes into pretended hysterics, crying crocodile tears, professing undying honesty and integrity, even as, as we all know by now, hundreds of millions, if not billions, have gone somewhere up in the clouds, with not a single one of them knowing where they went. Cloud computing was not invented by Apple ... no, but by these crooks who all profess they know nothing about what happened to the money, which are apparently somewhere in the clouds right now!

Sinners ... I see it in me. I see it in you my dear reader. I see it in all of us, the massa damnata that St. Augustine referred to, and lest we forget, "there but for the grace of God, go I."

But I also see hope in this sobering reality that has occupied primal place in our waking and sleeping thoughts in these past few weeks. I see it in the good news that juts out of all three readings. I see it in a God who reveals Himself as a patient, long-suffering God, whose "might is the source of justice;" but whose "mastery over all things makes Him lenient to all." (1st Reading).

I see it in the Holy Spirit who, despite our propensity to be hard headed and crooked, "comes to the aid of our weakness," and "intercedes for the holy ones according to God's will."

I see hope in the parable of the Lord who today shows us the reality of a world filled with all sorts of characters: the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly; the saints and sinners that we all are without exception.

I see hope in a God of patience who waits and allows us to be what we are, to become what we are called to be, each in our own pace and capacity.

I see it in a Church that though humiliated, took resort to further humility, and humbled themselves even more, by saying sorry to a flock that has been hurt and offended once too often by both leaders and followers, who willingly on unwittingly, have inflicted serious wounds on the Church, and our passionate and dedicated love and commitment for Her.

I am one of those wounded. As a priest, I am wounded by lapses of judgment of our superiors. But I am wounded, too, by unfair, unjust, and blatantly harmful lies and half truths designed by a PR practitioner, to hit right for the jugular, and cause untold harm to the ordinary people's simple faith and obedience to a Church that, they see, and they know, is the sure guide to holiness of life and salvation.

I am wounded. I am even angered. But I am not defeated. I am not discouraged. I am a sinner... that much I know ... that much my friends know. But I am, like everyone of my readers, also inspired and encouraged to go on striving, for this Kingdom-in-the-making, is hard-wired by the Founder, to lead us to fullness of life, to fullness of human flourishing, and to eternal salvation.

In the meantime, we have to struggle in this valley of tears ... you and I ... and we ought, and we will travel far together, till we reach heaven that is our true home.

NAIA Centennial Terminal

July 15, 2011 6:25 PM

Friday, July 8, 2011

RECEIVING AND RESPONDING





15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

July 10, 2011


There is something in the readings today that sit very close to nature, or at least, to the natural world as we knew it way back then. Let us face it … nature is fast disappearing. In the Philippines, only about 3 million hectares of rice lands are left, and they are fast becoming cathedrals of commerce – shopping malls, and SM, in particular! Our prime forest lands are also dwindling precipitously low, thus depriving countless species of flora and fauna, a home where they can thrive unhampered and untrammeled by so-called development.


But even then, the Biblical readings ought to speak to us. They ought to offer us a view of reality from God’s perspective. And they ought to teach us valuable lessons about life … here and now, and thereafter.


What are some of these timely lessons that we can glean from today’s readings?


Before I proceed to answer that, let me tell you what I have recently been through … Two weeks ago, I wanted to retrace my steps in Davao City, where exactly 22 years ago, I made an attempt to trek Mt. Apo. As my reader-friends know, it was an aborted climb. We were stopped in the foothills of the mountain, at about 3,000 ft above sea level, and 6 of the more than 300 climbers then, were kept for a few days in a mountain hide-out. That little band included me, along with two other Filipino climbers, and 3 other foreigners (all Caucasians). That climb became memorable for many reasons, and one of those memories worth holding onto was when we saw a Philippine eagle in flight, high in its mountain habitat, at a time, when due to rapid deforestation, the eagle was beginning to be endangered.


It was a telling lesson about the delicate ecological balance rapidly getting compromised, on account of man’s irresponsible use of whatever resources the forests and the mountains could offer. We saw how, the pattern of receptivity and response, the give-and-take that is the hallmark of ecological balance, was being upset, messed up, if not, negated by human intervention.


Very simply put, God’s plan for the world and everything that was in it, was being upset by humans like us, who had their own plans, not within the pattern of receptivity and response, but more like one of mindless use, abuse, pillage, and plunder.


22 years hence, I came back to see an even more denuded forest, an even more precarious situation, where flash floods can take place any time it rains hard, as they happened when I was there last June 27-29, 2011.


When I was growing up in the little sleepy town of Mendez, Cavite, there was a lot of this receptivity and response pattern in our culture. People received firewood from the little forest around town. People responded by planting “kakawati” trees that became fence material and supplied the firewood that people needed. With no running water back then in my town, people received nature’s sweet and pure water from very few natural springs and sources from the wooded part of the municipality. People responded by respecting its natural rhythms, protecting the common source of drinking water, and seeing to it that that lifeline was preserved to assure more generations to come of clean drinking water. Back then, we heard cicadas (kagang) singing in the woods. We saw thousands of dragonflies, and other insects and countless birds flying through the pristine still heavily wooded town, whose natural richness could sustain the simple needs of simple people like us who stopped all activities by the time nightfall comes, only to take them up again at crowing of the cocks at early morn.


Respect, shown in receptivity and responsiveness, characterized our daily lives. We respected the rhythm of nature, and rested at night, and worked hard during the day. During the rainy season, after occasional thunderstorms, we enjoyed the abundant gifts of mushrooms (kabute & mamarang) and harvested them while supplies lasted, and responded by hardly touching the natural habitat they were expected to bloom in.


The first reading reminds us of this receptivity. The heavens, it says, supplies the earth with water. The earth receives it, and the earth responds by producing fruits in plenty. What is received is used as capital, bears fruit or produces results, and are then given back to the earth, to repeat the cycle all over again. What we harvest comes out as trash, and whatever trash we create are thrown right back to mother earth, and becomes fertilizer for the new round of life that will come with the onset of the first rains. No plastic… No rubber … no polypropylene, and polystyrene monsters to clog our rivers and watersheds!


It came automatic to us be on the receiving end. We did not presuppose anything as ours. We children then, asked for whatever we needed, and received what was given with trust and gratitude. We responded with courtesy and thanksgiving and appreciation. Neighbors cooked their best dishes and everyone around the neighborhood got to have a taste of whatever it is they cooked. Neighbors responded by making available whatever they had. People lived in the state of receptivity and responsiveness, otherwise known as interdependence.


Unfortunately, we seem to have forgotten this in our times. In our age of what Twenge calls the “narcissism epidemic,” we have lost sight of this attitude of healthy receptivity, and healthy responsiveness. We all have become individualistic now. We all now have each our own “sense of entitlement.” We don’t ask for things anymore. We just go out and grab. People simply think now that since they work for PCSO, they can go out and make millions, if not billions, trying to suck the system dry, just because they are in position. Military men, who hardly have an aircraft to use to defend our shores, can have hundreds of millions stashed away in American banks, for they, too, have a sense of entitlement. They cultivate receptivity, but not a shade of responsiveness.


The forlorn Philippine eagle in Davao, is a representative image of what is left of our nationhood and national sense of self-respect. The delicate ecological balance, understood as a situation of receptivity and responsiveness, is now messed up big time. There is no more habitat left for the Philippine eagle and other flora and fauna to thrive in peace, unhampered by man, untrammeled by man’s selfishness, and inhumanity not only to fellowman, but to all of creation.
The last time I heard cicadas in my hometown (kagang) was decades ago. The last time I was treated to a symphony of cicadas was 7 years ago in Baltimore, MD, when a swarm of cicadas stormed all over MD and VA, and reminded me of younger years in my hometown, where respect, shown in receptivity and responsiveness, was yet in vogue.


The readings rouse us to more than just pious feelings. It rouses us to a sense of responsibility. It takes us to task, to respond appropriately to the gifts we receive from nature, from God. It takes us to task, too, and be cooperative to the Divine Sower, who throws seeds that fall on different soils. Some of us, it is clear, are rocky ground … uncooperative, unresponsive, even uncaring. But we are all called to be like unto the humus soil, who would not only receive, but also respond, and bear fruit a hundredfold.


Are we that type of soil that only receives, but never responds? Or are we that type that respects, that is, receives with gratitude, and responds with magnanimity of heart? We still have time to choose and decide. And that time is NOW!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

REJOICE AND TAKE HEART!



14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
July 3, 2011


Make no mistake about it. The liturgy today rouses us to rejoicing. That is the whole point of the first reading. The second reading alludes to the reason behind all that rejoicing - since our baptism, the Holy Spirit has been dwelling in us as in a temple. But there is one other thing that the third reading would have us remember. Even in times when rejoicing may seem difficult, it is something called for given the words of promise from the Lord: "Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest."

These are words that we need to hold onto, especially now.

It is not just difficult to rejoice in our times. It is most difficult to be a Catholic in our postmodern times. There seems to be a concerted, organized effort at discrediting the Church from all quarters. Despite what history clearly says, contemporary mass media outfits paint a very negative picture of the Church, at times, bordering on the fictitious, and downright malicious. In spite of overwhelming evidence from history, some journalists in our days, keep on hammering about the so-called "riches" of the Church, and her apparent lack of concern for the plight of the poor.

Some time back, a spate of fetuses thrown in high profile churches hogged the headlines, almost as if to insinuate how much the RH bill is needed. Some days back, the banner headlines proclaimed irresponsibly, I might add, the case of the seven 'Pajero bishops" who received donations from the Philipine Charity Sweepstakes Office, associated of course, with the hated past administration which the current one simply loves to demonize, with a lot of help from mainstream media. Of course, what they didn't say is what the same office gave to other religious groupings and "churches" in the country. Even without the benefit of hard evidence, and before the bishops could air their side, the news was bannered like established fact. And even if they were not true, or only partially true, the fact is, more than half of the Filipino people by now, has already taken those insinuations and innuendoes as incontrovertible facts! The damage has been done!

And yet, as good catholics, the Lord today tells us to "rejoice." And there are more than enough reasons for us to do so. Let me tell you some of those reasons.

First, the promise of Zechariah the prophet is very focused ... the King will come, a Savior, whose dominion will be from sea to sea. It has been fulfilled in Christ, and whilst that dominion is not fully established, it has began in and through the  Church. But all this alone, does not give us that much excitement, does it?

Let us look at the other reason that the second reading reminds us of. We are in a position to make a choice, either to live in the flesh or to live in the Spirit, who has made our bodies, His dwelling place, as temples. To live in the flesh is to run our lives using the rules of the material world alone, and not much else. To live in the flesh means to be ruled by desires and to be swayed by sinfulness. We have the power of choice to live in the Spirit, and therefore, to choose life in its fullness.

I would like to encourage my readers to take to heart the words of the Lord today. Despite the seeming impossibility, we are asked to rejoice. This capacity to rejoice belongs to those who are willing to see things from a different perspective, from God's perspective, on whose side ultimate victory and triumph belong. This power to make choices belongs to those who arte willing to set aside the prevailing material rules and choose to be led by rules that come from the spiritual perspective, from God's viewpoint.

As an educator, as a priest and preacher, I need to revel in this call to rejoice. Naturally somewhat pessimistic, I tend to see the negative side of events. I see so many problems in and out of government, in society, in an electorate that is not sufficiently educated to make wise choices, in a culture that is easily swayed by sensational newsbits, and biased sound bites. In a twittering world based on social networking, what is twitted and published is taken hook, line, and sinker, and taken as facts. The bishops are demonized, and the Church teaching authority is discredited, or at least, played down by such a concerted and organized barrage of editorialized opinions masquerading as news.

But I have one more reason today for not giving in to pessimism and discouragement. And it has to do with the words of comfort and promise from the Lord:
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdended, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."