PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Friday, October 29, 2004

 

Anti-competition


Okay, full disclosure now:

This is the reason why I'm so against competition. (Well, except when it's done purely for fun or for a higher cause.) (But, isn't that obvious?)

"Every human being was made from the earth, just as Adam was. But the Lord, in his wisdom, made them all different and gave them different tasks." (Sirach 33: 10-11)

We are all alike yet we're different from one another. The ancient unity-in-diversity principle.


Friday, October 22, 2004

 

Illusory freedom


So-called freedom – or its illusory kind - may actually be a form of bondage. Bondage from sin disables us from ever receiving fully the graces and blessings we ought to enjoy as children of God.

…“[C]ut off from God, the source of all life,” we “end up ‘barren,” unfruitful.

(Quote from Word Among Us)



 

Finding your bliss


Finding your bliss doesn’t mean lazing around with a hobby but working hard at it, polishing oneself in one’s craft.

“God loves watching us grow and develop not only because it gives him glory but also because we are happiest when we are our most productive.

“…[H]e is so concerned that we be found hard at work strengthening our gifts and putting them to work for the good of others.”

(All quotes from Word Among Us)




Wednesday, October 20, 2004

 

Is That Really a Halo?



"…wisdom, that I may tell the difference"


Your ultimate guide to finding fault in everything? Nah, just a litany of the Devil’s Advocate.

So you love love songs, but the song you're listening to reeks of selfish addiction. Don't you say you 'adore' him/her? Like he/she were god?

The generous cash you donated to charity is actually blood money - from illegal drugs, unfair labor practice, illegal gambling, and prostitution.

Your favorite shirt was produced, thanks to underpaid, overworked employees who labor in cramped sweatshops. The sugar you put in your coffee was manufactured using child labor.

Your favorite fastfood restaurant pollutes the river and the ocean, not to mention throws away non-biodegradable waste, including CFC-filled styrofoam boxes that wreak havoc on the ozone layer when burned. The chopsticks you're using may have been processed using chlorine bleach and produced by burning down the monkey-eating eagle's rainforest habitat. The tuna in your sandwich may have been caught using nets that also killed innocent dolphins and rare turtles.

The CD you bought is a bootleg copy, so you are somewhat guilty of theft. On the other hand, the CD the record label mass-produced is slapped with a price that should make the label guilty of highway robbery.

You know the guy you voted to the Senate will most likely initiate legislation on that hot-button issue you believe to be evil and reprehensible.

The prying concern you're showing your friend is actually a barely concealed desire for intrigue or simply being nosey. Your being friendly to someone you barely know is really part of a grand scheme. You initiate a conversation with others not because you truly care but because you have nothing else to do, and you’re actually a busybody and plain rumor-monger.

The desire to discuss someone's personal problems to unwilling and unauthorized third parties (i.e., the greater public) often leads to slander and rash judgment, which can only take root from a malicious ‘nature.’ ‘Outing’ oneself or someone’s sexuality, for instance, is malicious because one’s sexuality is the business of no one else.

The greeting of "Good luck!", though well-meaning, is quite erroneous if you believe that nothing happens out of pure luck.

Airing a public protest on anything you deem ‘immoral’ makes you sound judgmental and self-righteous, even if it’s for the best of intentions. However, keeping mum when you should speak out is a grievous sin of omission.

Your religious devotion is actually overspirituality, to the detriment of pressing, though more worldly, concerns. The dedication you pour into your work may actually be an escape from a personal problem you stubbornly refuse to face. The spirit of volunteerism or service you're relentlessly trying to pursue is actually meant to deodorize a low self-esteem, if not an obsession born of a tragic experience that scarred your soul in its formative years. It’s as though you got to prove yourself.

That facade of stoicism you put on is not necessarily equivalent to the virtue of hope in time of adversity but simply a mental exercise, a matter of proving the power of the human will.

Your silence can mean an unhealthy repression of anger. Your being a loudmouth may mean an uncontrollable urge to rant and be generally pompous or arrogant.

Self-deprecation can be a form of false humility: ("Forgive me for having given you a less lavish feast, my friends."). It can also mean an unhealthy look at oneself, a blindness to one’s dignity as human being.

"Falling in love" does not always mean committing to it.

The doting you lavish on your favorite son or daughter borders on overindulgence, you end up breeding a 'spoiled brat' for life. But your exercise of discipline can lead to discouragement if it doesn’t inspire similar harshness later in life.

You're actually exploiting your wife's submissiveness when you thought you're just asserting your right as the head of the family. Or you can go easy on your relationships and actually make an excuse for your lack of love or fear of commitment.

Men's view of manhood can subtly mean, "Women are weaker, i.e., the inferior sex" while women's brand of feminism can mean, "If men can do it, women can do it even better."

Freedom of speech can make a wrong turn and breach the thin line separating it from verbal abuse, or slander.

Freedom of expression in one's art can mean nothing but artful pornography. Remember how "free love" was used to mean sexual promiscuity? On the other hand, keeping a tight guard on morality (legislating good taste, for example) results in ridiculous overscrupulousness and unnecessary repression, which leads to something even worse, like dams bursting or volcanoes erupting.

Humility can also hide under the cloak of timidity, while zeal, under the blanket of overblown and misplaced self-confidence. Shyness is an obstacle to zeal, boldness can mean presumptuousness. While sincerity and candor can really mean uncouthness, politeness can appear to be this annoying act of merely wanting to be nice. Behind every gesture of diplomacy, tact, kindness, civility, and urbanity hides dishonesty, guile, and lies, lies, and more lies.

On the other hand, telling the truth to someone's face can be too painful a thing to bear, like stabbing someone with a knife. While you are just being honest and up-front, refusing to back-bite, you also end up hurting other people's feelings so much as killing them in cold blood.

Temerity, facetiousness, audacity, presumptuousness, nerve and gall - all can be mistaken for honesty, wit, candor and grit.

Tobacco, marijuana, and coca leaves – tagged as addictive things by the Dangerous Drugs Board - have medicinal value, while wine – synonymous to drunkenness - is touted to be good for the heart. These four organic products are not just associated with vice, they may be seen inherently as poison synonymous to sin.

In the same manner, gambling is inherently clean, good fun yet it could be considered vice when associated with gambling lords, corrupt policemen and an assortment of other shady characters.

Hobbies and things done “for fun” may turn out to be a serious form of sloth.

The personal effects you consider indispensable in your day-to-day life can be prima facie evidence of personal vanity and material attachment.

Advertising, no matter how good-intentioned, often contains half-truths and bare-faced lies and fosters commercialism and materialism, if not downright hedonism (creating needs we don’t really need).

Embarrassingly, the height of materialism is expressed during Christmas and Valentine's Day.

The Olympic Games, basketball games, intramurals and tournaments are not just a celebration of sport or a form of bonding, but activities fostering fierce competition, not friendship nor goodwill.

TV debates are not merely there to ferret out the plain truth from the burning issues of the day, but merely to provide debate for its own sake, to the glory that was Greek logic.

You seek higher education and absorb information trivia because of your lust for knowledge for its own sake.

You pursue a selfish political ambition in the name of public service, the “desire to serve,” your foolish facade.

You dress up not just because you want to look good, but because you want to convey a certain image, and it is certainly not one of humility nor even a healthy dose of self-regard.

Your entire lifework, if pared down to the bones, is a huge endeavor in self-centered vainglory.

Depending on who’s looking, ecumenism can lead to embracing blatant falsehoods in one's faith. Conversely, a strict, to-the-letter adherence to one’s faith may also lead to paranoia, militancy or extremism.

Answered prayers can lead you focusing on the gifts instead of the giver.

Devotion to an angel, a saint or holy objects can lead to totem worship, or simply idolatry.

The over-exercise of penance puts into question the mercy of God, making Him more of a punisher than a forgiving deity.

Sometimes, putting your trust in God leads to what they call 'hyperfaith,' a kind of faith that commands rather than submits to divine will.

Evil may lurk in just about everything and anything good that you do!

2.17.2000
Updated version, of course


Sunday, October 17, 2004

 

Martha and Mary (action vs contemplation)


The parable (?) about Martha and Mary is one about balance. If asked, “What is more important in the spiritual life, action or contemplation?”, the parable seems to answer “Contemplation” but it actually says, “Both.” Action feeds on a prayerful life. Prayer is useless without action.

In medio stat virtus. (Virtue lies in the middle.)


 

Emptiness of self


The more we empty ourselves, the more room we give God to fill us. – Mother Teresa


 

Servanthood


(from M.)

You know that you have the heart of a servant by your response when you are treated like one. (see Matt. 20:28)

***

Your work for God will always count, whether big or small; for He marks well your faithfulness when you have given all.


 

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True beauty is in the heart. True riches are in heaven. True security is in God.

To wake up each morning feeling at peace, happy and strong is a blessing from God more precious than wealth.

Walk this day with great confidence in your heart, for you have much to offer. A lot of people await the goodness and love that you carry within.

Appreciate life itself even though it’s not a bed of roses. Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you wish, but the appreciation of what you have.

The Lord is so mindful of you. Your life is perfectly planned by Him. He loves you unconditionally. Continue to hold on to God’s promises.

The real winners in life are the people who look at every situation with an expectation that they can make it work through God’s grace.

Don’t worry about anything. Instead pray about everything. Every flower bud blooms when it’s time. Every prayer is answered in God’s time.

The power of God within you is greater than the pressures around you.

Often we stand at life’s crossroads and view what we think is the end, but God has a much bigger vision and says, Relax my child, it’s just a bend.

Today, let us slow down and savor life. Let us not miss the scenery by going too fast and lose the sense of where we are going and why.


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

 

The ___________ moment


Do you have moments when you are pushed to some suffocating cul-de-sac, some corner of extreme humiliation, when you are forced to own up to something blatantly false and you cannot explain your side? Moments when you are accused of something you’re certainly not guilty of and yet you’ve got no chance to prove otherwise, not even a chance to express your anger?

Those are the times when you are force-fed with a truly humble pie , which only leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. Those are the times when the only reliable witness is God and therefore somewhat mute, at least at the moment.

I can’t find a word for it. For modesty’s sake, I won’t invent anything. There has to be a better term.

Let’s just call it the _________ moment. Thing is, people in their generosity have filled in that blank for you , thanks to your main accuser who refused you the benefit of the doubt. Thanks to that ready accommodation of the mind, also known as gullibility, you are thus affirmed of your hunch that there’s no justice in this world.

Welcome, dear bro, to the __________ moment. Remember that you are alone in this, that there’s no way you can be avenged. Perish all hopes of hope for there’s none coming.

Accept that you are humbled beyond belief. Accept that you are defeated without even having begun a fight, your name blemished beyond remedy, possibly forever. There’s not a soul you can run to; sometimes, not even to a confessional where your profound anguish might be thought of as profoundly trivial and you are dismissed with a penance of one Our Father. You’re in that __________ moment, as though designed by the fates and no one can stop it, not the least you.

At this point, you may want to be consoled by the classic George Elliot work Silas Marner where the one wronged and slandered lived all her life misjudged and miserable. In the eyes of the world, she lived a lie, and she had to live with it because no one would believe her side of the story. Her only hope was death. And time.

It was only time that would prove her right, as evidence of somebody else’s crime eventually points to her innocence, and by accident at that. The revelation happens long after the falsely accused had passed away, too late, too late to avenge a lifetime of injustice.

***

If you couldn’t bear being so humbled by the _________ moment, it could be that you are too haughty to bear the thought of being so humiliated. The _________ moment is a terrible moment of grace.


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