Sinners, saints, and souls (part 3)
We do not strive for holiness to despise others, as it is hypocrisy and not righteousness.
We strive for holiness to be with God and to live with him. That is holiness. In holiness, we don’t use ourselves as basis of morality since it is self-righteousness.
We use the gospel truths and we allow the Holy Spirit to teach us. That is holiness.
The sermon on the plain in the gospel of Luke enumerates ways to holiness and woes to change our evil ways (Luke 6:20-26).
Blessed is synonymous with happy. “Blessed are you can also be happy are you. It sounds satirical but a deep experience of faith will turn the lines meaningful.
“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day. Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
When we remove the sense and conviction of the next life, we will surely fall into selfishness, greediness and materialism. Holiness becomes irrelevant and meaningless. In effect, we disregard others falling into the pit of self-destruction and community moral erosion.
It is spiritually and morally healthy to always see our present life in the light of the next life, the heavenly life with Jesus.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”
The woes are not hatred to people but strong reminders to challenge us for self-examination and self-emptying.
In 2011, I had the chance to visit the place of Sta. Rita de Cascia in Italy.
The entrance to the village looks like Barangay Talubin, Bontoc. It was a beautiful place where I felt holiness. I am grateful to ate Memie and kuya Wil Lucero for the opportunity to reach Cascia, Italy. My determination to visit the place was deeply rooted in my devotion to the patron saint of Bontoc, Sta. Rita de Cascia.
My visit and stay in Cascia has enriched my spiritual life. I felt the deep values and virtues of forgiveness of Sta. Rita. My unholy moves at the Basilica of Sta. Rita were illegally taking pictures.
I am not surprised then why Bontoc got her patron saint as Sta. Rita.
Historical accounts say that Bontoc was a warring ethnic group whose rule was revenge. The early missionaries saw the negative effect of vengeance as a rule. Ethnic conflicts wars coupled with headhunting were practiced. The early missionaries immersed with the villagers especially among the elders and evangelization took place gradually.
Among the strategies was taking saints to name the churches like Santa Rita to mean a conversion of heart from revenge to forgiveness. The people saw the profound value of forgiving.
It may look foolish and coward in the eyes of man but gain in the eyes of God, especially in the next life. Forgiveness is letting go of bitterness, hatred, and anger allowing God to take charge in the situation. God is a god of justice. “Vengeance is mine.”
My life was threatened many times. In my younger years as a priest, I was too idealistic and energetic in terms of social justice. I recall the incidents where I stood for the truth and fought graft and corruptions.
I was poked with a gun three times in different occasions. I was deeply traumatized. I feel some of psychological effect until now.
But my strength then was Jesus who said, “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.”
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day. Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
Let us live a blessed life amidst the difficulties. If we do, we shine to influence the world to live in hope in the pandemic.
Happy solemnity of Christ the King!