Most probably, a black hole lives at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. It is probably a dead and very dense star pulling other stars and planets into itself like a sinkhole. Without wonder, we say gravity is what holds us together. We are no longer perplexed that two things (just by having mass, whatever that means) should attract (and not repel) each other. What is it about matter anyway that pulls or warps the fabric of space-time?
We say E=mc2; we see it working in the raging fires of our sun and in our nuclear furnaces, and we are no longer puzzled that energy should be “fungible” (i.e. interchangeable) with mass.
We hang electric lights on our trees and we take for granted the little ripples of energy that wave forth from these little stars to reach the tiny non-digital cameras in our eyes.
We see starlight and we are no longer startled.
We agonize over the kind of gifts to give one another, and open our gifts in our homes and we say this is how it has always been and how it should be every December.
We fight our wars relentlessly and we say this is realpolitik or deterrence or practical policy. We break into splinters and make divisive alliances, and the usual script is to blame the serpents on the other faction or fraternity.
We wring our hands over the greed and corruption that steal the future of our people and we say this is the way the world works. We see evil thrive and good people become bad, and we no longer wonder why we are powerless to right a wrong, to tell the truth, to dispense justice in the flawed systems we have made for ourselves.
We cheat and we say everyone cheats. We fight fire with fire to avoid being burned. When we are hurt, we exchange tooth for tooth, eye for an eye, and we are pacified somehow by this false parity and transient vindication. Of course, the pain is sharp, sharp enough to blur our sight so that we no longer see that eyes (or teeth) are not fungible.
We gaze at our spouse, our parents, and children. If our most intimate of relationships have become chores to us, it is because we no longer bother to even remember and rekindle the love that once was clear as morning.
When we wound one another, we drop our sorries and confess and do our penances. Do we still wonder why scars do stay, why the injury of sin, its trauma and its swelling do not just go away? We have grown to expect lesions to close at our speed and at our bidding, and not at the pace of those we have wounded.
We text our words and telegraph (or tweet) our emotions; we codify them into numbers (14344), and skype our presence. We tag each other and label “like” on our posts, without pondering any more about the longings beneath these kinds of digital connection.
We see our world spinning faster than ever even as it becomes flatter. And so we multi-task with the multi-info at our fingertips. We take all these in stride and yet we seem disabled from pausing to wonder why we are tired or stressed or distracted.
The child raises the string of sampaguita to our car windows and the stab of guilt lasts only until the light turns green and we settle back to our seats and curse the traffic.
We see a virgin giving birth to a child and we say, so what. Been there, done that. It is only a matter of time before we uncover the genetic secrets and wield the biotech tools to make that happen.
In countless Angelus prayers, we utter the same words of Mary’s oblation. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me. To say yes to the summons of an angel, to risk the unknown, to go on living despite what we do not see: is it no longer astonishing, this faith that can endure and do wonders?
We see the child in a manger, immortalize this image in our belens. Does it still grab us, this mystery of mysteries of our redemption? From what again are we being redeemed?
Behold this wonder:
a living, moving,
startling likeness of who we are,
who God is;
what God awakens
when God sleeps
on the crossing
wood of our manger.
We have lost the wonder of it all, lost the gratitude, lost the likeness of who we are, who we are meant to love, how life again could matter.
No wonder, God came to us as a child in a manger.
by Eric Santillan
Sustainability has become a byword in the world these days. Companies are talking about it. People like Al Gore popularized it with his series on Climate Change. With the mining debate raging all over Mindanao and personalities like Manny Pangilinan and Gina Lopez involved, it is at the forefront of media and our minds.
But what is Sustainability?
The UN Brundtland Commission on March 20, 1987 defines sustainability as development “that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” I think that’s still the best definition of sustainability around.
Sustainability has several aspects. There is the aspect of ENVIRONMENTAL management. There is a science behind taking care of the earth and ensuring that we as a species endure. Then there is the aspect of ECONOMICS, which looks at our consumption of limited resources. A third aspect is the SOCIAL impact of organizational and personal decisions we make. These three aspects or three pillars of sustainability is also known as the Triple Bottomline — in any endeavor, there is a need to reconcile economic demands (the Financial bottomline), social equity and the protection of the environment.
For me, sustainability is the intersection between society and spirituality. For one, sustainability is a perspective. It is a way of living that challenges the way other people live. The general view is one of selfishness–I will get as much from the earth as I can because I might find myself lacking. Sustainability, on the other hand, asks us to view the world with the Economics of Enough: to stop consuming in wanton abandon, to share, to make decisions because the future matters.
Sustainability also asks us to have the Spirituality of the Sabbath. To, as it were, have the courage to rest on the “seventh day” and wait for the world to catch up with us. It is also a call to social action–inserting itself in the political process. The Earth Charter speaks of “a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace.” This is because a culture of peace ensures that we will endure to the future.
Perhaps we can learn from the Iroquois and how they see sustainability.
The Great Law of the Iroquois states: In all of your deliberations in the Confederate Council, in your efforts at law making, in all your official acts, self interest shall be cast into oblivion. Cast not over your shoulder behind you the warnings of the nephews and nieces should they chide you for any error or wrong you may do, but return to the way of the Great Law which is just and right. Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground – the unborn of the future Nation.
Oren Lyons, Chief of the Onondaga Nation, writes: “We are looking ahead , as is one of the first mandates given us as chiefs, to make sure and to make every decision that we make relate to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come. . . .” “What about the seventh generation? Where are you taking them? What will they have?”
Adapted from the homily given during the Easter vigil at the Church of the Gesu, Ateneo de Manila, 8 April 2012
by Fr. Jet Villarin, SJ
When we were novices, we led a structured life. We woke up at 5am, prayed, went to mass, ate, studied, worked the fields, played, and prayed again till the sun went down. In the evenings, after supper and after doing the dishes, we even structured our recreation. We called it organized joy or orjy for short. That meant board games, bingo, charades, cards, whatever.
However you structure it, joy can be a fleeting, manic, moody, transient thing. Good wine is a joyful thing for me. It is best when taken in the company of friends. That’s why I can commiserate with the guests in the wedding at Cana when the wine ran out. It was our Lady who saw that first. With keen maternal sensitivity, she tells it straight to Jesus: they have no more wine. They have no more joy.
Like anger or depression, there are thresholds for joy. Sometimes we say, mababaw ang kaligayahan, not to mean the joy is shallow but that it only takes so much really to draw a smile. The poor and Jesuit novices have a low threshold for joy. I remember leaping for joy when, instead of organized joy, we were told by our novice master that we were going to the movies. I see this low threshold when I visit the homes of poor people. It only takes a visit to make them happy.
What determines this threshold? Is it parenting or psychology? What we have? What others have? What they have that we don’t have? What we see as gift? What we see as entitlement?
Is faith a joyful thing for you? Or is it more a burden? Is it something that’s freeing? Or is it rather stifling?
Is the future a joyful thing for you? Or is it more laden with anxiety and fear?
In today’s Gospel, when Jesus goes through doors that are locked out of fear, we are told somehow that our faith has something to say about that future. “Peace be with you” is his sentence to them, the sentence he sets for their fear and guilt and sin. It is reconciliation not regret that he presents to them. It is peace he offers as a balm not so much for the wounded past as it is for the scarred graciousness of the present and future.
The German theologian Jurgen Moltmann noted that some languages (like German and Latin) have two words for “future.” William McDonough elaborates further: “in Latin, futurus is that which develops in a predictable way out of the present. Moltmann said that to think of the future only in this way is a failure of hope; by itself this is “the planner’s future,” a way of trying to control life and thus a way of posing as God. The other Latin word for future, adventus, indicates the future as coming toward us from God, as breaking into our plans and making a claim on our lives. We are not in charge of this future, but seek to embrace it as part of God’s providential care for us.”
Interestingly, we have two words in Filipino for “future”. Hinaharap is about what is in front of us, what faces us. Kinabukasan suggests openness, which is also the word we use for tomorrow.
Joy that is based on futurus or hinaharap or the “planner’s future” is nothing more than a charade. True and lasting joy comes from being open to God’s future breaking into our present. To be joyful is to be open to adventus, the adventure that is God’s future for us.
Today, Divine Mercy Sunday, we are asked to let go of our predictive pasts and calculated futures, and be open to God’s future today. Being open to that future can be a joyful thing because it comes to us laden with God’s mercy and peace.
The icon for Divine Mercy is the risen Lord with blood and water flowing from his heart. These are symbols as much of our humanity as they are of our deliverance (i.e. through the parting of the waters and the blood of the Lamb). We celebrate with these symbols in Baptism and the Eucharist, through which sacraments God inaugurates and consummates the saving work of Christ in us. It is through water and blood, through our humanity and cruciform love that we grow into the likeness of Christ.
You can organize joy all you want. The joy that matters is the joy that sends us to God’s future today, a future that breaks upon us daily with God’s peace and abiding mercy.