We are a people of dialogue. As such we have the moral obligation to search for the truth in freedom, the truth about God, about life, about ourselves, our country, our society, our world and the events around us.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

In Time of Political Crisis, Everyone can be a Peacemaker

In Time of Political Crisis, Everyone can be a Peacemaker

As of this writing, there seems to be quite a furor just outside of San Carlos Seminary in Makati where witness Sammy Ong has reportedly sought refuge. Reports reaching me in Bantayan Island at the northern tip of Cebu, seem to speak of an impending political upheaval in the National Capital Region. My thoughts naturally turn to a longing for peace.

In one of the printed materials given to me by the Brahma Kumaris, an international peace group with a branch in Davao City, there is a write-up about peace that attracted my attention. According to the author of the article, the human mind processes forty thousand thoughts a day. The predominance of thoughts on a certain subject will be a powerful influence in the person’s character. Thoughts about peace are a form of energy, the author adds.

This statement is confirmed by the popular saying, “You are what your thoughts are.” According to this principle (if it can be considered a principle), a person’s character is formed by ingrained habits. Habits in turn are acquired by the repetition of individual acts. Acts or behavior is largely influenced by the repeated spoken or written words. And words come from thoughts.

A bad character therefore is traceable to one’s obsessive bad thoughts. Conversely, a good character results from good thoughts. So, imagine what a powerful energy forty thousand thoughts about peace can unleash in one day! What formidable impact could be created if forty thousand people could think forty thousand thoughts of peace in one day!

If this can happen in Manila and in the entire National Capital Region (NCR), what an enormous force will that be to minimize the tension now obtaining in this area at this time of political crisis.

It is wishful thinking, of course, to believe that everyone in the NCR would think forty thousand thoughts everyday this week. But it will be a good start, even if there are only forty thousand thoughts of peace per person in an area where at least 16 million persons reside. Whatever the number is in terms of thousands, a figure we can use here, it would be a great step towards a culture of peace.

To continue with the Brahma Kumaris pages, the author thinks that culture is created by consciousness or by lingering thoughts. Consciousness creates values, systems, laws, behavior, ideology etc., all of which make up what we call culture. So the culture of peace begins with the thought of peace.

For us Christians and Catholics, it is imperative that thoughts of peace move on to a desire for peace. A desire for peace should became a love for peace. A love for peace should be raised to the level of grace. To put it in another way this human love should be graced by God’s Holy Spirit who lives in the heart of the baptized person. This grace is directed or focused towards the model of peace—Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. This is what St. Paul meant when he said that we have to grow into the stature of Jesus Christ, that is to be Christlike.

Jesus is the perfect human person because there is no disorder in His thoughts, words, behavior and relationships. Order creates peace; peace is the result of order or harmony. St. Thomas Aquinas defines peace as the “tranquility of order.” This is the reason why Jesus is the Prince of Peace, a peace that begins in the core or heart of His person.

It is for this reason that the late Pope John Paul in one of his speeches in New Zealand in 1995 said: “The peace of the heart is the heart of peace.” To acquire a Christ-like personality should therefore be a desire of everyone, of every Filipino, so that she or he can be an effective peacemaker especially in critical times as now. In this kind of peacemaking, everyone can make a contribution. At this point in the history of our country, it is an urgent call to the silent majority— as well as for the articulate minority. We owe it to ourselves and to our country to be a true Christian at heart.

Archbishop of Davao
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference

June 26, 2005

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Church Grows From Within

The Church has been the special focus of world attention recently, especially during the months of April and May 2005. The last days of the beloved Pope John Paul II, his lingering illness and suffering, his death and funeral, and the conclave that elected his successor hugged the headlines and major news releases around the world.

Here in the Philippines the late Pope’s visit in 1995 and the enthusiasm of Filipino Catholics were also highlighted. This was followed by the issue of corruption in high echelons of society and government, and, together with the House bills on population and reproductive health made the Church the focus of wide and recurrent media attention.

Myriad reactions and commentaries on the nature and role of the Church both positive and negative have been the subject of newspaper columns and talk shows. These wide, public, and often biased discussions on the Church’s influence once again provoked questions which are actually not new. The Second Vatican Council and the Popes have answered them exhaustively. Even our conference has come out with such in-depth Pastoral Letters like the Church and Politics, the Church and the Economy, the Church and Culture, and many other documents explaining the nature and role of the Church in our country. The present pontiff, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, has the unique way of responding to these questions. In his masterly lecture on the Constitution of the Church (Lumen Gentuim), the then Fr. Joseph Ratzinger said that the Church grows from within, not from without. He said that this “inwardness” of the Church is the work of the Holy Spirit in each and every baptized person; it manifests itself in personal and communal prayer, and reception of the Sacraments and community activities.

This statement of the future pope echoes a somewhat similar statement of Saint Basil the Great, one of the early Fathers of the Church. To him the Church grows and derives her strength not from the eloquence of her preachers and pastors, not from thousands of conversions, not from her institutions and structures, not from her socio-pastoral apostolates. The Church grows and derives her strength from the Holy Spirit working in the soul of the baptized. Saint Basil added that to think otherwise would be to engage in worldly thinking. He referred to worldly thinking as the effect of the devil’s work in the soul whose structures have not changed since Adam and Eve. Without the Spirit the soul is vulnerable to the subtle influence of evil. Consequently the root of all evil is self-love, not self esteem. Self-love has many manifestations but the three major ones from which others derive are sensuality, avarice and ambition.

St. Basil warns us always to remember the advice of St. John “to test the spirit” (1 John 4:1) so that the Church will continue to grow from within enlightened, strengthened, and guided by the Holy Spirit. Doing this would ensure that the outward and external activity of the Church must flow from the inward and indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

Archbishop of Davao
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference

June 12, 2005