IT’S hard to be a true and struggling-to-be-complete Christian.
The true Christian fundamentally lives, or tries to live, by the moral and spiritual values of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The most efficient enumeration of these values for day-to-day observance is in the Ten Commandments and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Even the smallest digest for children of the Catechism is not as easy to grasp intellectually. But those who have tried to be close to God—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—all give the personal testimony that teachings and doctrines that are hard to understand, with just one’s intellect and by ratiocination, become crystal-clear to the mind and the intellect when one decides to pray.
This probably happens because it’s true, as spiritual writers and theologians (the two terms are not interchangeable, you know), that what’s right and wrong, what God, the author of the universe, wants and what He doesn’t, are written in every human heart.
Some have identified that innate knowledge in the heart of what is right and wrong—and knowledge also of what the logical consequences and deeper meanings of doing and thinking right, or the opposite—as the natural law.
The strictly materialist mentality of course rejects natural law, denies its existence.
One of the things I learned from one of my father confessors is that in many cases, intelligent, intellectually gifted and scholarly Catholics who are allergic to your gentle efforts to make them closer to God as that way because they have a moral problem. They will be cold to your invitation to join you in a two-hour mini retreat once a month or at a thirty-minute pilgrimage in May or October to a nearby shrine of Our Lady—an activity that could be “fun” because after the pilgrimage, your group of friends would repair to a watering hole and have drinks and good conversation. But they would be willing to join you at the tavern for drinks after the pilgrimage.
What could the moral problem be? Most of the time among married Filipinos it would be a very secret liaison. Or a rather unethical extra source of income. Or an addiction to pornography. Intelligent, intellectual and scholarly Catholics with those moral problems know that taking the first step to getting intelligent, intellectual and scholarly Catholics with those moral problems know that taking the first step to getting closer to God–like going to a recollection or joining the barkada on a pilgrimage to a shrine of our Blessed Virgin Mother–would entail some serious thinking and an examination of conscience. And that would result in a voice from within them whispering that they have to drop the romantic liaison, or stop taking the secret bribe or give up the porno videos and the visits to prostitution houses.
Which leads me to the matter of missions and mission statements.
The word “mission” in the English language, which modern Tagalog has adopted as “misyon” from Roman Catholic priests and pastoral writings and can be heard from Protestant pastors and tele-evangelists, has an ecclesial provenance. In Latin Church writing and homilies, missionaries are those who are sent to do work away from home.
“Mission” is also the word used for the work of diplomats and military men, as well as exciting undercover teams, hence “Mission Impossible.”
In management and marketing, it has become de rigueur for employees and their publics to know what a corporation or NGO wants to achieve. Each has to have a “mission statement.”
And this brings me back to the notion that it’s hard to be a true and struggling-to-be-complete Christian.
The mission of government offices, corporations, marketing teams, diplomatic posts and commando groups is to achieve temporal, physical results. More services delivered, increased sales, expanded relationships, territorial conquests or the neutralization of an enemy.
The mission of a Catholic who wants to be a true and complete Christian is to be nothing less than alter Christus–another Christ. In fact to be Christ Himself, Christ as He would be in the particular situation one is in.
And that is a bit harder, I think, than for a priest or a nun to be, than for a layman–who has a job in the Aquino administration, or in a media organization, or in the police force.
The layman or laywoman who listens to the voice of St. Josemaria Escriva must learn how and then strive “to turn all the circumstances and events of his (or her life) into opportunities to love God and to serve the Church. The Pope and all souls with joy and simplicity, lighting up the paths of the earth with faith and love.”
The layman and woman must do their work cheerfully and as excellently, as successfully in material terms, as they can. But they must do it without transgressing any of the commandments and simple rules of good behavior and moral conduct. And this work must be for the good of others, which is how it becomes work done for love of God.
But how do you deal with someone in your workplace who has a plan to do iniquity?
Yesterday, Saturday of the 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Year 2), gave an instruction to the faithful. The first reading from the Old Testament was about the Prophet Micah and how he indicted the leaders for being corrupt and doers of iniquity against the poor. The second reading, from the Gospel of Matthew, was about how the Pharisees plotted to destroy Jesus.
Jesus does not move to destroy those seeking to kill him. But he accomplishes his mission.