But if religion were indeed a “crutch” for weak people, I‘m happy to have this crutch. Is it possible that this so-called “crutch” is imbedded in our genes as we navigate through life’s fragility? The idea of divine intervention has existed from pre-history’s cave drawings through today’s experiences of astronauts as they marvel at the beauty of space! It is alive in our myths and legends.
It also is alive in me. With Easter week just behind, I reflect on the various messages given by the Pope during this Easter season, filtered through my mind’s ear.
Some of them:
On prayer Pray, pray with faith, perseverance, and courage. Do not let your prayers be passive, like the lame person in the Bible who lay down on his mat for 37 years, but didn’t have the pro-activity to go to the healing pool just nearby.
Our Offerings We offer God everything that we have, everything that we are: not only the fruits of our labour, but also our sufferings, our fears and joys, and yes, our sins so that they can be cleansed.
On Education The highly educated Pharisees could not understand how Jesus could make the lame walk—on a Sabbath! True, the Messiah is foretold to come, but He is supposed to come from Bethlehem, not from Galilee where this Man is from. The Pharisees, like many of us, have become too sophisticated.
On Guidance If you want to be free, says Jesus, be my disciple. To be one does not depend on the doctrines of Abraham. Instead, listen to the words of the Holy Spirit inside you, and you will be free
The Institution of the Church Faith has become institutionalised through ritual. Holy Mass is not so much a commemoration of events that happened 2,000 years ago, but is an event happening right here and now, as we participate in this most holy of rituals.
Familiarity with the Lord After His resurrection, Christ was frequently with His disciples. He waited for them as they went fishing, ate breakfast with them. This daily familiarity we should also have with our community, because Christianity is a social religion. We share something concrete, not virtual, as the Gnostics do.
Frankness and Boldness In the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples of Christ performed miracles in His name. They were simple people, maybe some didn’t even know how to read and write. But when they were told by the Sanhedrin to keep quiet, trying to frighten them from preaching the good news, they were bold and uncompromising. How could Peter, for example, previously so full of fear, become so courageous? This is the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Joy Joy is different from happiness. Happiness is calm and is a state of mind, but joy is pure feeling! When Christ appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, their hearts were filled with joy! Their feeling was so strong that they couldn’t believe it was real. The joy that fills us is also the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Mercy When the risen Christ first appeared to His disciples, Thomas wasn’t there. He was left behind. So Christ appeared again, waiting for Thomas to arrive because he was late. By the same token, we should wait for those who are left behind. The great advances in the world today have unfortunately benefitted only a small minority. The rest are being left behind. These are the millions who do not have access to resources that the select few have. Especially now in this time of crisis, let us show them mercy.
Harmony If we are open to the Holy Spirit, He will lead us to our rebirth, not only to create harmony within ourselves but with our community as people of God. Many things divide our communities. For example, three things:
*Money: How many families are destroyed by inheritance issues? Even doctrinal divisions can have their roots in money. Money is a false idol.
*Vanity: A pharisee said, “Thank you, Lord, that I am not like other people . . . or even like this tax collector.” The Pope continues, “I give better parties, I want to have better clothes. . .” Vanity divides
*Gossip: Gossip disqualifies the other person from membership in our community. It instigates social lynching because the third person is pre-judged.
New Meanings Every time we read the Bible, we find new meanings. Every time we look at the Crucifix, we see the Symbol of Love. It is a book! How many of us look at the Crucifix and yet not see the Christian wisdom there? It is Jesus’ prayer for us, showing His wounds to the Father and reminding the Father of His sacrifice for us.
Light How many of us live in darkness because it is easier and more convenient? We move around blindly: easy corruption, easy engagement in human scandals, etc. But the light of the Spirit overwhelms us. Let it come!
Jesus as Teacher In order to provoke growth, Jesus constantly “tested” his disciples. He knew He would multiply several loaves of bread to feed a multitude, but He asked them what to do. As the day wore on, His disciples grew tired. They had thought they were the “aristocracy” and wanted Jesus to send the people away, so they could finally rest and be alone with Him. But Jesus wanted to be with the crowd. When the disciples thought the children would simply disturb their Master, He told them to let the children come. Jesus was teaching His disciples pastoral work: about how they might sometimes feel tired of simply giving, seemingly without getting anything in return, but they should nonetheless keep on going, even when tired.
Faith’s Mission Faith has a missionary dimension. It is not like an ID that we file away without conviction. Instead, it requires transmission, to go out of ourselves and proclaim the Gospel to the people. A Christian must bear witness. It is not necessary to proselytise in order to convince. Instead, service is a way of living so that faith becomes transparent and will arouse healthy curiosity from others.
Encounter with Jesus Christianity is not only a doctrine but an encounter. The Road to Emmaus is an encounter. We are born with discomfort. Our hearts are restless and thirsty for God. Yet, we sometimes do not know this, and how does Jesus react? He respects our own personal situation (except when he knocks down hard-headed Paul), patiently listening to us, going with us at our own pace. At the right moments, He asks questions, and when we are ready, He explains. From the darkness of our dissatisfaction and doubts, we finally have an encounter with God.
These messages from the Pope go on every day at 1:00PM Manila time on Sky Channel 76. I don’t know how long this schedule will last, but I am sure this daily spiritual sustenance has been a great comfort to many Catholics throughout the world, especially during this time of crisis. For me, the only thing lacking is that these people of God with whom I share the Holy Mass remains a virtual community, not a concrete one that the Pope himself suggests.
How to search for a concrete community when this isolation will have come to pass?