Sunday, October 25, 2015

John Allen's Mega Trend: A Common Man's Response

Perhaps one of the most famous lines that made it to trend in the recent Oscars was that of Neil Patrick Harris’ opening lines: "Tonight we honor today’s best and whitest…” However, after reading John Allen’s 10 mega-trends shaping the Catholic Church, Harris’ famous line may be said only in reference to the Church’s past. Today what could be referred as the Church’s best and whitest times are only part of Church annals. Time has changed, new trends creeping in, many things are new and so is the color that fills the Church today.
Color Change
Gone are the days when missioners would only mean Caucasians; when the Roman Catholic Church is synonymous to something western; and the Church’s perspective is seen only in Rome. Gone are the days when European churches are overflowing with people to the extent that it overflowed to developing countries to share their abundant faith in mission agentesNowadays these churches are empty and the Church’s pecuniary condition is also running empty due to major abuses and blunders made by the clergy.
Perhaps this era may be considered the Church’s “darkest” times in post-modern history because of the offenses made by the clerics that erupted in the west. However, this “darkest” times could mean not only to refer to the stigma caused by abuses but also because the hope of the Church today shines brightest not among the best and whitest but the poorest and “darkest” people of this world. Perhaps the color change happening in the Church today from White Caucasian to sun-kissed Asians and dark Africans may be a reflection of the revolution that is going on within the Church. It is a manifestation of the change that is on-going within - from the triumphalist and elitist Church to a Church that is more service-oriented and sensitive to the needs of the poor; from a Church that speaks from the perspective of the comfortable first world to a Church that preaches mercy and compassion and responsive to the situation of poverty, oppression and injustice of developing countries.
Color change is indeed inevitable. Changed has not only occurred in colors of complexions but also in the color of outer garments. Gone are the days when men garbed in white hold monopoly to the truths of divinity. Nowadays with the rise of lay empowerment and involvement in the Church white garbs are no longer the predominant color in the Church’s ministry but it is one among the many different colors worn by the laity who work hand-in-hand with the clergy and religious in proclaiming the gospel ever anew.  
The Color of the World
With the color change that has become inevitable in the Church, the world we are in now has also become so diverse, so wide and so colorful. If we look around many of the things that are happening were only once considered science fiction. What the Church has attempted to respond and address in the past by way of providing theological reflections and moral guidelines can no longer be seen as black and white. At present situations and experiences of people can no longer be narrowed to either black or white. There are lots of gray areas now and the shades of these gray areas are wider and wilder than the fifty shades of grey. 
Think of bio-ethical issues. Consider gender differences. Reflect on the many realities happening in cyber space. Think of the quality of human relationships vis-à-vis the existence of social media, the internet and smart gadgets. Consider the megatrends shaping the Catholic Church. Where would the Church situate herself now in this wide and diverse situation of the world and human life?
The Common Man Re-Imagining the World
Perhaps in the Church’s “darkest” of times, we honor with gratitude the best times that happened in the history of the Church made by the “whitest” and well educated people of the Church. However, cognizant of the color change that is happening perhaps the Church can bank on the new color that fills her to respond to a more colorful context that confronts her.  This can be done by allowing new voices to be heard, by listening to the voices of the common people that builds the Church today, and permitting this people coming from developing countries to re-imagine the face of the Church in this complex and diverse world that she is in right now.
As the famous dictum goes, Vox Populi Vox Deimaybe the time has come for the Church to listen to what her people is saying and not saying; maybe it is time for her to allow her people to speak and allow the Spirit to work within them and contribute in the shaping of the Church; perhaps the time has come for the Church to allow the needs and concerns of the common man to be heard. If there is somebody that is so affected by these mega trends it is not the Church hierarchy, it is not the rich but the common man- the faceless, nameless common man who struggles to survive and live this complex world.
Abraham Lincoln once said “God must love the common man, He made so many of them. God has indeed loved the common man and He speaks to them through their struggles, through their plights, through the everyday complexities they face day in and day out. And for the Church to respond to the complex world, she needs to listen to God speaking through the common man. 
I say this using the language of the common man with much respect to the Church who has moulded and nurtured me. I say this as a common man who speaks on behalf of all common people who continues to struggle the complexities of the gray areas of life: “Kung hindi mo maibahagi ang sariling kulambo, makibahagi sa kagat ng lamok. Kung hindi mo maibahagi ang sariling payong, makibahagi sa patak ng ulan.” Only when the Church is able to listen, share and understand the concerns of the common man, will she be able to allow the common to participate in the re-imagining of the Church today; only then will she be able to empower the common man to become her evangelizers; only then will the Church be able to respond to the colourful trends that confronts her and only then will she be able to let the new colors sneaking in her shine brightest in her “darkest” times. 
With all these megatrends and the big words that theologians are talking about these days, in the future when we shall have seen the bigger picture and the common man is heard and has participated in the re-imagining of the church, perhaps all these megatrends with just be trivial and people will just laugh at its pettiness. As the famous line of Virgil in Aeneid goes, “Perhaps one day, these things will be a pleasure to recall.”

Who Do You Say I Am? My Christological Perspective

I grew up with a clear understanding that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Savior. As a student of a non-sectarian school, we were not really taught of who really is Jesus Christ. I transferred to a Catholic school for High School, and then this question is not anymore given thorough emphasis. It is a grave sin to ask this question because we were expected to know that He is our savior, He died for our sins, He is the only begotten Son, one in the Father and etc. Nobody even dared to question why He is our savior. As a student it’s a heresy to verify if Christ really died for our sins. We were just given instructions and mandate that Jesus Christ is our Savior and He is the Son of God. That’s it.
Though the inculcation of the doctrine of our faith, from our parents and teachers, greatly contributed to my concept of Jesus Christ, it was only when I left the seminary and studied Theology that this question has been answered. In our course in Christology, I have come to a realization that I really do not know who is Jesus Christ. I was scandalized and became confused, particularly on the question of His necessity. Is He really necessary in our life? Does Christ really take part on our salvation? What differed Him from the great men of our times, the likes of Ninoy Aquino, Jose Rizal or even Heneral Luna? The more I studied and tried to understand Christ the more questions and confusions did it bring to me.
I would like to take as my starting point of my reflection on the Christological perspective of the Triplex Munos. This evolves on the threefold mission of Christ. Christ being a priest, a king, and as a prophet. As priest Christ made himself an ultimate sacrifice for our salvation. I can remember in one of our discussions the question that; is it really necessary for Jesus Christ to be the sacrifice? In my humble understanding it was necessary for Jesus Christ to be the ransom for our salvation because it takes only a person such as Jesus Christ, the only Son of the Father, to do this. Only a God like the Father could do this for us. Only a person, one with the Father could be the ultimate sacrifice for the payment of our sins. We can offer anything, lamb for the Jews, chicken, pig, or even cow but it does not surpass the great offering, One like Him, Jesus Christ.
Jesus came to be human just like us. Though He is a King he came to serve and not to be served. He showed a great example for us, by being a person just like us to. Jesus’ kingly mission is a call for us to follow. He is the ultimate example of what service really means. We are called to be persons of service. As human beings, I tend to think that I am higher than others. I always seek for special treatment, most especially in the way I act in our home. I can consider myself as the bred-winner of my house and I could say that I deserve to have the special attention from my family. Yet here is this Man, the Man who not only changed the perspective of service but deconstructed it. He showed me the clear example that as an individual, it is okay not to think of yourself first but to think of others. As Christians we are called to do the same- to be selfless, humble and to be of service to other.
The prophetic mission of Christ denounced every form of evil and He gave witness to the life of the Gospel. In our discussion, however, I have started to question the reality of evil. What is evil then? Is evil a necessity for me to know Christ? I don’t know, but what I am certain of is that Christ denounced the evils of His time. He denounced the hypocrisies of the Pharisees; he fought against injustice, and gave hope for the sick, widows, and sinners. The evils of Jesus Christ are not different from our times. The evil still continues and the challenge of Jesus Christ continues as well. That is to denounce the evil of our time. In my personal life I am always confronted with different forms of evil. The injustices that are taking place in my workplace. Most especially when the managers and top management makes decisions that are not giving us the proper compensations and benefits, I for one speak in fornt of them to denounce and seek for what is just for us. The prophetic mission of Christ invites us to be a prophet, a prophet that challenges to the evils of our time. Jesus continues to challenge us to follow Him, not just a meek and mild lamb but as a prophet who denounces every form of evil. Jesus Christ who renounces every form of inequality and criticizes every form of oppression.
Amidst these images of Christ as a priest, a king and a prophet I would like to settle on the reality that Christ for me as my Father of Mercy and Compassion. Just this year I was very fortunate to be in Manila and be part of the youth delegates in the Pope’s meeting with the youth. Pope Francis gave me a clear understanding of what Jesus Christ is. Jesus Christ is my father, a father that does not look on my differences, short comings, failures and sins. He is a father for me who looks at me and still be amused with what I do. Will still find happiness in my actions, that even if I do not religiously follow the rules and doctrine of the Church he founded, yet He still finds me worthy of being a human. Jesus for me is continuously challenging me to become a good person yet he does not reject me if I fail to follow what He wants. He still has hope in me even if most of the time I follow what I want. Many times I feel guilty with what I do because most of them are not in accordance to the doctrine and teachings of the Church. Yet there is this Man, Jesus Christ, who says that its okay you don’t have to be guilty because I have loved you long before those teachings and this love is enough for you to be with me till the end of times. This was my realization during that short encounter with the Pope. It was very heart-warming to see the Pope hugging the street children who have come to realize that there is no more hope on their situation. His gesture of hug was an image showing that Jesus is not blind of our heartaches, trials, and injustices. He is there to give me that hug, as a gesture of mercy and compassion, and asking me to follow Him in the ways that I know. I don’t have to be strict to myself to follow what the Church really wants but I can be who I am and still be delightful to Him. Bottom line is, in the end I will still face Christ alone. And when He would ask me what I have done with my life, I will take hold on the fact that I have accepted His challenge in the way I know and in the way that I could. I don’t have to change my being me just to follow You, because I know that You have loved me unconditionally and everything else followed.


The Trinity: A Community of Love

 ​A few years ago I was able to witness the ordination of my closest friend here in Davao. A few days following that big event, we joined him in his thanksgiving mass in Agusan del Sur where we met his family and some of his relatives. It was the first time that I have encountered his siblings for some conversations. It was there that I noticed how they shared a number of characteristics. Aside from the noticeable facial features that they share, they also have similarities by the way they stand, the manner of speaking and even in some mannerisms. 
I have noticed that in my own family too. Although each one of us in the family are distinct from one another, most of my friends would always say that they see in me the characteristic of my mother and my father or at times they would claim that I am like my brother or my sister. I believe that we differ in a lot of ways but our similarities are almost always noticed.
Perhaps you have noticed that in your own family too. Most children are almost always like their parents in so many ways. Siblings share a lot of common attitudes too- ways of thinking and how they see and interact with people around them. But what fascinates me, my dear brothers and sisters, are those married couples who are not related to each other at all but appear to share facial features and would come across as siblings because they look the same. From these married couples, we could see how love transforms- two distinct individuals who are one and the same.
Today, we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The mystery of the Trinity is not very easy to understand- One God in 3 persons. However, for us to understand the mystery of the Trinity, we need to look at the Trinity from the eyes of human relationships. In order for us to appreciate the Trinity we need to look at it from our own experience of relationships.
We need to look at the Holy Trinity as a perfect community / family. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all distinct from one another, yet, they are one God, one community. They are related to one another in love. It is love that binds them. It is love that transforms them and makes them one.
Our readings today give us a glimpse of the wonderful relationship that they have. It reminds us that because of the love that makes them one, each of them is active in us and in our history. The Book of Proverbs in the first reading tells us that the Father is the one who creates everything, puts all things in order. However, it is also from the first reading where we hear that God the Creator was never alone in the work of creation. "When he established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep; When he made firm the skies above, when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth, I was there. Then was I beside him as his craftsman, and I was his delight day by day, Playing before him all the while,  playing on the surface of his earth. This is a clear image for all of us that because of their love for one another, the work of one becomes the work of everyone. God the creator, is acknowledgedas the Creator however, He was never alone in the work of Creation. Someone was beside Him,someone was His delight day by day.
In the second reading we hear the role of the Son in our lives- if we believe in him, He brings us grace and assures us of our salvation. Paul shares his reflections on being justified by faith (made right by believing in Jesus). By faith in Jesus, we are entitled to live in peace with God and we have access to his graces and we can look forward to participate in his glory. The works of Jesus is not a solitary work, It is not a work directed to Himself but his salvific work, is a mission that would lead everyone back to the Father.
And in our gospel we hear of the Holy Spirit leading us to the full truth, to understand the fullness of God’s revelation. From the short gospel reading, we also are given the glimpse of the dynamism (activities) of each of the persons in the Holy Trinity. The Father shares with the Son whatever belongs to him. The Son acknowledges that whatever belongs to him belongs to the Father. He is willing to share with us all that he has / is. The Holy Spirit does not speak for himself but for the Son and the Father. He comes to guide us to the truth. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit act together as one God in us. They do not act separately or contradict one another. My dear brothers and sisters, the readings that we have heard today paint to us an image of what a perfect community the Trinity is!
My dear Brothers Sisters the feast today reminds us of what our families, parishes or communities should be. We are invited to recognize our differences and uniqueness but are invited to live in unity and love. We have been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. As Christians professing faith to the Trinity, we ought to live our relationships following the example of the Trinity.
As we continue the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, we pray for the grace we need so that we too would imitate the love and unity of the Trinity. May we always remember that we best worship our God by imitating the discipline and activity of the Triune God. We pray that we too would be transformed by their love and grow not only in faith but also in becoming an image and likeness of the Trinity not only in our family and community but also to every person we meet and encounter. May we strive to gradually become an image and likeness of the Trinity by becoming instruments of God’s love in all our relationships. |Amen.


Just Dropping By!