PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

 


True and False Humility


A casual comment about humility made me review what it means to be humble. If there’s something called “false humility,” maybe there’s also something called “true humility”?


This is what I learned from a talk (sourced from ALNP):


One’s humility may actually be a case of low self-esteem or lack of self-confidence. Manifestations of this form of masquerade are the ff.:


1. Putting oneself down, like the thought of not being liked

2. Timidity and shyness, as in the fear of speaking to superiors

3. Insecurities, as in the inability to take correction or input, or the inability to receive love or encouragement; both of which can be a motive for intense ambition

4. Self-pity, which can cause real depression in a person


Low self-esteem or an unhealthy lack of confidence may result in relationship difficulties, eating disorders, even sexual difficulties.


The following are the roots of low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence.


1. Lack of affection, personal attention, or affirmation in the early years. This can be healed through good relationships later in life.

2. Trauma in one's life whether physical or verbal. When too serious, this may need professional counseling.

3. The world's overemphasis on beauty and physical appearance. This may be related to a lack of knowledge about one's worth (i.e., in the eyes of God).

4. Active work of the evil spirits.

5. Wrong understanding of humility.


False humility is:


1. The refusal to recognize and accept exactly who we are, both in strengths and weaknesses.

2. A wrong understanding of the context of humbling oneself for the sake of unity.


True humility means taking on the mind of a servant for unity. It considers others deserving to be served by us. The opposite of true humility is selfishness - self-seeking, selfish ambition, and conceit - doing things to attract attention.


True humility is having true image of oneself. It is thinking with sober/reasonable/sensible/clear-headed judgment, not making an inflated or deflated opinion of oneself. In this regard, the truths that help maintain sober judgment of oneself may help: the truth of our creatureliness (small before God, dependent on Him) and the truth of our real value in God's sight.


There are strategies to overcome low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence.


1. Acknowledge the problem and you become more free.

2. Turn away from (repent of) the behavior that fosters the problem. Actively turn away from the lies about yourself.

3. Live in the truth about your self-esteem and self-confidence.

4. Receive encouragement and affirmation from others.

5. Relate to others as someone willing to be of service.


Believe that everyone God created is capable of anything. Each may be gifted in one thing or the other, yet if we really believe every word of God, then we can do anything possible, through God's grace.



 

Don’t worry for tomorrow, let tomorrow worry for itself. - AOV


 
Freedom and slavery (again)


Sin enslaves (Jn. 8:34). By going our own way and trying to "free" ourselves from God, we actually become bound to sin. And in this bondage, sin will blind us to healthy, life-giving alternatives, stifling our freedom to choose. It's easier than we often think to get caught in a cycle of disobedience by following our selfish inclinations and disregarding the harm we are doing to ourselves and others in the process.


Fortunately, the freedom that Jesus won on the cross has restored our ability to love and choose God above all else. It's now up to us to learn how to embrace that freedom and let it transform us.


The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession before) is invaluable for this purpose, as it pours out the grace to set us free.


Here's what confession does, according to Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom: "When we confess our sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. And even though I cannot find a scripture for it, I believe God places a sign out there that says, 'No fishing allowed.'"


- lifted and paraphrased in parts, from Word Among Us, Lent 2004



Sunday, March 28, 2004

 


Two 'twisted' songs


In the course of my uneventful work in community and with high school and college kids (where I teach - in the most subtle way, I hope, that competition is bad), I have met wonderful people from CYA, Lingkod, ALNP and IPD.


Among them is the bright dude with that weird name, Melmarx M., a former scholar and teacher at the Ateneo; Jun C. (brother to singer Jamie Rivera); and the reserved Mondie M.; among others. These are enviably gifted individuals, able to do a lot of different things that I can't. They are good at multitasking. They have years and years of experience behind them, and that can only mean wisdom for all of us asking for advice. (They are too humble to claim they know the secret, though.)


I reproduce below two ice-breaker songs I find jaw-dropping:


Take all of me


(This latter portion of the song is sung in the most kindergarten-ly manner…)


Take all of me

Take all of me

In a world that's lost

Help me count the cost

Take all of me


All my life

Be my symphony

Take all you can

Take everything (?)

Take all of me.


(…But the subject - total submission - is more suitable to some old man nearing death.)


***


(A song from Maui)


(This one is simplistic. It's the accompanying action that's funny….)


Baby shark dada-da-dada (2x)

Mama shark dada-da-dada (2x)

Papa shark dada-da-dada (2x)

Grandma shark dada-da-dada (2x)

Grandpa shark dada-da-dada (2x)

Go to swim dada-da-dada (2x)

Saw a shark dada-da-dada (2x)

Swimming fast dada-da-dada (2x)

Lost one arm dada-da-dada (2x)

C-P-R dada-da-dada (2x)

Go to heaven dada-da-dada(2x)


(…But the message is something else: What we see as tragic may not be so tragic after all, if only we look at things from the perspective of the eternal. Wow, to think that this is sung ever-so-casually, as though nothing earth-shaking is being said.)


 

As promised…continuation of Can you countenance these thoughts?


"The joy of the Lord is to find a person fully alive." - St. Ireneus (Passion, aestheticism and asceticism are not necessarily contradictory.)


"Peace is the tranquility of order." - St. Augustine


"In Your will is our peace." - Dante Alighieri (A literary saint, if you will.) Cf.: "My soul will never find rest until it rests in You." - St. Augustine


"To those who believe, no justification is necessary, to those who don’t, no explanation is possible." - St. Bernadette. Cf.: "To one who believes, no question is necessary. To one who does not, no question is enough."


"If you want to be happy, do not have much but reduce your wants." - St. Augustine


"endless ways of glorifying the Lord" - St. Expeditus. (God is a creative. There, too, is something Godly in every artist, copywriter, writer, etc.)


"What greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make His only Son become son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become son of God?" (Sermon 185) – St. Augustine. (This is a paradoxical statement: As Fr. Jun Lingad puts it, "God wants us to be like God but not in the way we want it." The way we want it was the sin of our first parents Adam and Eve, characterized by pride ('to be like God'), which in turn led to disobedience. Jesus, the new Adam, eventually showed the alternative way - humility in the knowledge that we are dust, humility leading to obedience (to God's will).)


"O God if you exist, let me know of your existence!" - Charles de Foucauld (A classic skeptic's cry.)


"extreme joy at God’s mercy" - St. John Neri (This one is for Ripley's. It is reported he actually laughed after hearing confessions! Believe or not.)



"God called us to be faithful, not successful." - Mother Teresa. (This always makes me feel guilty whenever I strive to better myself professionally. Actually, it's a question of focus.)



 

God's will versus our freedom


It is by the grace of God that we are built up in the Spirit and sanctified. This does not mean that we can afford to sit back and wait for the Spirit to do this in our lives. More often than not, it is the expressed level of our desire, through both words and actions, that the Spirit awaits before beginning to work in earnest in our hearts. Fr. Steve Tynan, Companion, Shepherd's Voice Publication, p. June 4, 2003


Additional commentary from Fr. Jun: Christian discipleship - doing God's will - is Jesus' overriding concern. What is God's will anyway? Doing God's will means holiness, faithfulness.


It is important to note that holiness is not optional. "If anyone wishes to come after me," Jesus declared, "(1) Deny yourself. (Swallow your pride.); (2) Take up your cross. ('Cross' means your mark as a Christian as well as all the sufferings associated with it.); (3) Follow me.


This means that should you decide to become a Christian, there's no 'middle ground,' it's 'either or,' all or nothing.


But it is equally important to note that Christian discipleship is by choice, "walang pilitan." After all, Jesus said, "If anyone wishes…"


***


Christian discipleship is hard, but there's also this one promise, among other promises: "God is faithful and won't allow you to be tested beyond your power to endure."



 


Life ain't easy


Life ain’t easy

You have to be wrong to learn what is right.

Stumble to persevere

Hurt to be strong

Fall to rise again

Lose to try harder

Pray to overcome them all.



 




'Life with Christ is an endless hope. Life without Christ is a hopeless end.'


'Life with Christ is an endless hope. Life without Christ is a hopeless end.'



 

'The measure of love is to love without measure.'


'The measure of love is to love without measure.'



Friday, March 26, 2004

 

Can you countenance these thoughts?


A Lenten special


I just love reading the lives of the saints and the mystics because theirs are the kind of life stories that shock me out of my existing mindset or mood-for-the-moment. Do you really, really, really, really want DISTURBING IDEAS? If my blog of contrasting and disturbing ideas is not enough, then I invite you to read what the saints have written through the ages, ideas that are extremely unprintable and widely unpopular, if not unacceptable.


The Catholic Church has always been plagued by scandalous scandals. Name a century and we have at least one great scandal. The latest of these is the issue of pedophile priests and the American Church's cover-up. But thanks to the Church's invaluable wealth - its canonized and yet-to-be-canonized saints - these sins are exposed especially after the writings of some would-be saint are uncovered right after or long after his/her death, like a Catholic version of the discovery of Anne Frank's diaries. In Tagalog, "Laging nabubuking ang lahat ng itinatagong baho!"


***


I remember R.'s sister who used to keep some kind of spiritual journal which her father eventually discovered. R said their father irately told his sister this: "Why? Are you expecting to be some kind of saint someday?"

Let me take the opportunity of stating categorically that my writings have none of that girl's lofty intention. In case you're missing the point, I just want to serve and to entertain. And I don't deny the many errors I might be committing along the way.


Then again, what's wrong with that girl's keeping such a journal? Who knows, right? Look at the people who've been eventually canonized by the Vatican, many of them after decades, even centuries, of doubt and investigation.


__________________


"I do not promise you that you would be happy in this life, but in the next." - Our Lady of Lourdes (the reported apparition of the Immaculate Conception) to a young girl, Bernadette Soubiros, at Rue de Bac. (This statement makes all thoughts of utopia useless, but it runs the danger of being interpreted as a call to apathy in the face of this world's misery.)



"One's life is beyond one's control, wherefore seeking to subject it to control is a false self-control, while acknowledging that it is beyond control is true self-possession." - Evangelium vitae (If I'm not mistaken, this - an echo of the above - is by Pope John Paul II.)



"Our Lord loves with a most tender love those who are fortunate enough to abandon themselves completely to his fatherly care, letting themselves be governed by his divine providence - without any idle speculation as to whether it will be useful to them and to their advantage or painful to them and to their loss." - St. Francis of Sales, Spiritual Conference. (Next to St. Francis of Assisi, this other Francis stumps the heck out of me.)


"I will spend my heaven doing good on earth." - St. Thérèse of Lisieux. (Long before Opus Dei founder Jose Maria Escriva declared the possibility of saintliness in the secular, there was the Little Flower Thérèse's "heaven-on-earth." A rather revolutionary thought, for how can a hopelessly imperfect world be heaven?)


"Dios solo basta." ("God alone suffices.") - Teresa of Avila (Name a woman gutsier than Teresa of Avila! Try to say this one if you find yourself unemployed, have nothing to eat, have no one to run to, etc.)


"Humility is the acknowledgement of what is true." - St. Teresa of Avila (Give me a better definition. This captures best the need for a detached SWOT analysis of oneself.)


"Holiness is doing God's will with a smile." - Mother Teresa (If brevity is literary, then Mother Teresa should be canonized. Alas, Gertrude Stein reportedly once declared that remarks, no matter how beautiful, are not literature.)


"It’s not the giving that counts but the amount of love in the giving." – Mother Teresa (Mother Teresa has that rare capacity to see through the Christian heart of the matter.)


"Each time anyone comes into contact with us, they must become different and better people because of having met us. We must radiate God's love." - Mother Teresa (What I love furthermore about Mother Teresa is, she is genuinely ecumenical. Whenever she refers to upholding the dignity of man, she refers to all men and women, and she means all - Catholics, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Muslims. No one else before her in the Catholic world had done that. No wonder people of different faiths love her. Mother Teresa's brand of spirituality is, I say, the way forward for the Catholic church or any church for that matter.)


(More of this some other time.)



Sunday, March 14, 2004

 


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LENTEN THOUGHTS

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the best form of fasting
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sister raquel [x607]

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the many times
I abandoned you Lord
is the many times
You welcomed me back
in all Your mercy and love

eastwind [x509]

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the instant i was airborne
i faltered in fear of falling
and so i fell not knowing Your hands
were outstretched below

now that I know i soar with ease
and never falter or fall
knowing You are
wherever i may falter or fall

eastwind [x605]

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prayer opens doors
where there are no windows
turning despair into hope

light spills through
the smallest crack
when you pray in darkness

perla [x600]

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do not resist go with the flow
do not grasp a touch suffices

shout and be ignored
whisper and be heard

squirm and be ridiculed
smile and be appreciated

suggest and be followed
impose and be resisted

expectation brings frustration
non-expectation brings fulfillment

stop talking to listen
stop thinking to learn

make an effort you miss the shot
be effortless you make the shot

with true friends you are yourself
with strangers you try to impress

wait in the shadows to progress
take the limelight to regress

meditation begins with no thoughts
confusion begins with many thoughts

look inward and get lost
look outward and discover

give and you are satisfied
get and you want some more

simplicity is wisdom
complexity is folly

love and be loved
hate and be hated

eastwind [x604]

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Monday, March 08, 2004

 

Cathechism 101


“A mature faith is one that perseveres, one in which the person decides by himself or herself what he or she chooses to believe and abide by.”


“There’s always new beginnings and second chances. ‘Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.’”


“‘Lord’ comes from the Old English phrase lef warden, literally warden (caretaker) of the bread; figuratively, one in whom our well-being depends.”


“What happens during the sacrament of baptism?”


“We are washed away of original sin (newborn) and our existing sins (older ones).

We become members of the church.

We become children (sons and daughters) of God (the Father).

We become the friends of Jesus (the Son of God).

We receive the Holy Spirit and become bearers of It (the third persona of God).

We die with Christ’s death and with His resurrection, hope to be heirs of the kingdom.”



Thursday, March 04, 2004

 


Nuggets of Gold


(From: Word Among Us)


On freedom of choice


“We are engaged in a battle. Jesus may have won the victory through his cross, but it’s still up to us to embrace this victory by accepting Jesus into our lives.” Daily.


***


“Deliver us from evil”


This last line from Our Father expresses “the fact [that] we are not yet in that blessed condition where we will be free of all evil.”




 


Question



Can a father be capable of envying his son? to the point of hostility?


I’ve met someone who claims it’s the case with his own father. Father is a seaman who only finished elementary or high school. He’s almost always at sea somewhere in the world. Son is into the last months of his MBA, has a cushy job, drives his father’s car, buys all the pirated DVDs he wants, has all the latest gadgets, the works. He calls the shots at home.


I have stopped probing the motives of my parents’ actions. I figure it’s healthier to assume their unsullied love and filial devotion. I am scared to discover that I am not loved. But I believe God loves me and that’s more than enough. Then again, God is abstract, a spirit; He makes His love known and felt through people. I certainly would appreciate it if I’m actually loved by the people I am expected to love back.


“I can not bear the thought that my own father would envy me even at the slightest,” this guy said.


“Me neither,” I think I said stupidly. “But maybe you cannot blame him if he did?” I said, recovering my tact.


“I mean, look at you. Then look at him.”



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