Katatawanan, katuwaan sa buhay COVID-19

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-16 ng Oktubre 2020
Pitong buwan na nakakaraan
mula nang kumalat mula Wuhan
corona virus, tayo ay nag-lockdown
nang lumaon pinagaan quarantine
COVID-19 pasakit pa rin sa atin.
Nguni't huwag din namang masamain
maraming aral ipinamulat sa atin
itong COVID-19:  pananalangin 
at pananalig sa Diyos, 
pagpapahalaga sa pamilya at kapwa,
pangangalaga sa ating kalusugan.
Gayon din naman
maraming katatawanan
katuwaan ating naranasan
lumipas na mga buwan
kaya mga ito ating pagparoonan
kesa pabigatan ating mga isipan,
puso at kalooban.
Sa dami at tagal nang hirap ating naranasan
minsan marahil iyong inaasam-asam
makapagpahinga at magbakasyon
at saka sasagi sa isipan na hindi ba gayon
itong COVID-19 ngayon?
Bakasyon at pahinga
kaya nakapagtataka
kapag walang pasok sa eskuwela
at opisina dahil sa piyesta upisyal
gayong wala namang papasyalan
ni pupuntahan
lahat ng araw pare-pareho lang!
Nang magsimula ang lockdown
karamihan hindi naman nahirapan ni kinabahan
bagkus naging engrandeng bakasyunan
kantahan at inuman kung saan-saan
hanggang magkahawahan
nang mabatid katagay sa inuman
walang panlasa, walang pang-amoy
nang maglaon akala mo'y
aping-api, kinawawa at pinabayaan
pinag-aagawan lahat ng uri ng ayuda
pera at de lata
habang ang iba naman ay saganang-sagana.
Ang Pinoy nga naman
maski saan man
basta may kalamidad
hindi pababayaan kumalam kanyang tiyan;
aminin ang katotohanan
parusa nga ba at kahirapan ang lockdown
bakit tayo nagtabaan?
Hindi lamang iyan:
sa bawat tahanan
 mayroon isang tiyak natutuhan
bagong libangan at pagkakitaan
pagluluto at pagbe-bake.
Isang pangunahin kabutihan
nitong lockdown
luminis mga lansangan
umaliwalas kalangitan
kalikasan nabigyan
kapahingahang kailangang-kailangan;
magagandang tanawin
muling nasilayan mula kalayuan
habang sa mga tahanan
laganap na luntian ng mga halamang
 inaalagaan at pinagkakakitaan
ng mga tinaguriang plantitos at plantitas.
Mayroon pang ibang mga katatawan
nangyari sa gitna ng lockdown
at quarantine ng COVID-19
ngunit huwag nang pag-usapan
baka lamang pagmulan
labis na hapis at kalungkutan
mga kabalastugan sa pamunuan, 
sakim sa kapangyarihan
katanyagan at kayamanan
ngunit walang pakialam
sa bayang nahihirapan
nagsisikap lampasan mga pagdurusa
dinaraan sa katatawan
katuwaan upang mapanatili
katinuan ng isipan
kesa tularan mga baliw
at hunghang na payaso
sa gobyernong ito.

*Mga larawan sa itaas mga kuha ni G. Jay Javier, Mayo 2020; habang ang mga nasa ibaba ay kuha ng may-akda maliban sa ibong dilaw at puting bulaklak na kuha ni Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD.

The hiddenness of God

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 04 September 2020
Photo by author, sunset at the Lake of Galilee (Tiberias) in Israel, May 2017.

August has always been a “ghost month” for me since elementary school. Long before I have heard these stories and words of caution against many things in the month of August, I have always dreaded this month when days are grindingly slow.

Specially this year 2020 when the whole month of August felt like the season of Lent when everything was dry and empty, even literally speaking in our churches when the five Sundays of August were like five Good Fridays.

But, for the first time in many years during this pandemic, amid the dryness and emptiness of August 2020, I felt and “found” God anew in his most unique and wonderful characteristic — his hiddenness.

Hiddenness is different from being invisible that simply means “not visible”.

Hiddenness is something both simple and complicated but beautiful and wonderful when we find God in his hiddenness.

Hiddenness of God means more than not being seen per se; it is that feeling with certainty that he is present but, just hiding somewhere. In fact, if God were not hidden, we would have not found him at all!

And the more God is hidden, the more we are able to see him and experience him!

Photo by author, April 2020.

Remember when we were kids and could not find the things that our mother had asked us to get from somewhere in the sala or kitchen or her tocador? She would threaten us with the classic line my generation have all heard and memorized, “Pag hindi mo nakita yan, makikita mo sa akin!”

It is one of our funniest memories of childhood! I am sorry for my English-speaking readers but there is no appropriate translation for this because it is very cultural and even spiritual in nature. Literally translated, it says that if you do not find what you are looking for, you would find it with me. Crazy and insane, is it not?!

I told you, hiddenness of God is both simple and complex but whenever we remember those “sweet, maternal threats”, we laugh and shrug off the experience as we were dead serious then searching for whatever thing mom had asked us because deep in us we knew too well, it must be somewhere there. Sabi kasi ni Inay! (Mom said so!)

That is how it is with God too! We know for sure he is around, he is present. But in hiding because that is how loving God is, like moms and some lovers with surprises for us his beloved.

The Prophet Jeremiah experienced it so well when he wrote:

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter, everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day. I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding itin, I cannot endure it.

Jeremiah 20:7-9

No one can understand this without having experienced such intense kind of love of God or of another person that even if we are pained, we just cannot walk away or leave. More so with God, the most intense lover of all!

At the very center of Jeremiah’s torment is the invincible power of attraction of God. This is also the reason human love – whether for another a friend or a spouse, for the Church or any institution – must always be based on the love of Christ who told us to “love one another as I have loved you.” If our love remains in the human level, it can never go deeper or higher making it so sublime, so true, so pure.

That is how God is in his hiddenness who is like a lover who never stops looking for us, calling us, luring us, even seducing us to come to him, search him and once found, we may dwell in his great love; hence, even if we do not “see” him, we keep on following him as we also find him in his hiddenness!

Hiddenness of God, mystery and gift of Easter

This hiddenness of God is both the gift and mystery of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection. It is a gift because in his hiddenness, God has become closest to us more than ever while at the same time, a mystery because it is in his very hiddenness that we truly find and discover God.

Remember the two disciples going home to Emmaus on Easter afternoon who was accompanied by Jesus while traveling? They did not recognize him but as they talked, their “hearts were burning” as he explained the Scriptures. Then joining them at their meal at sundown upon reaching Emmaus, Jesus took the bread, blessed it and broke it — and the disciples’ eyes were opened, recognizing him as the Lord who immediately disappeared! The two then rushed back to Jerusalem to announce to the other disciples that Jesus had indeed risen.

That is the beauty of hiddenness, its giftedness and mystery that we find God even our beloved who had died or not physically present with us but deep within, we are certain of their presence as being so true and so real.

Hiddenness is a deeper level of relationship coming from one’s heart and soul not dependent on physical presence. This is the reason why upon appearing to Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, Jesus asked her not to touch him because from then on, knowing and relating with the Lord need not be physical and corporeal as he used to relate with them before his Death and Resurrection.

All these we must have experienced like when after a friend or a relative had died, that is when we felt growing closer with the person than when he/she was still alive and physically present with us. Or, when we were feeling low and down, we experienced sometimes so amazed at how we have felt the presence even the scent of our deceased loved ones comforting us, assuring us that all would be better.

This quarantine period invites us to experience and discover God anew in his hiddenness through prayers and silence so we can reflect on the many lessons this pandemic is teaching us today. In the darkness and emptiness of this pandemic are grace-filled moments with God hidden in our poverty and sadness, sickness and even deaths around us.

Photo by author, Christmas 2018.

Some people have already asked me about what or how would our Simbang Gabi and Christmas celebrations be. They are sad and worried that it must be a very bleak Christmas for everyone with so many out of work.

But, despite this gloom, I tell them that Christmas 2020 would be one – if not the most meaningful Christmas we shall ever have despite forecasts that there would be less of everything, materially speaking.

So often in life, when we have so much material things, that is when we fail to find and experience God.

Recall that in Bethlehem more that 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ was born, God came to us hidden in a stable, on a manger in the darkness of the night.

And do not forget, too, that Christmas is not a date but an event, the very person of Jesus Christ, the all-powerful God who came to us hidden in a child, who upon becoming an adult, was crucified and died. These are sad and down moments for us but for God, it is his hiddenness, his presence. Let us go and find him again for he continues to come to us in hiddenness. Amen.

Republikula ng Pilipinas

Lawiswis Ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-24 ng Agosto 2020
Larawan kuha ng may-akda sa Pulilan, Bulacan, Enero 2020.
Ang sabi nila
buhay ay parang isang pelikula
tayong lahat ang bida at artista;
kaya lalo nang malaking pelikula
at tiyak patok sa takilya
pelikula ng ating republika!
Siyempre, lahat ay pabida
gusto umeksena
hindi lang sa Palasyo at Kongreso
pati na rin sa mga paseo basta matao.
Ang nakakatawa pero bumebenta
lalo na sa mga tanga 
mga artista nagpipilit sa pulitika
mga pulitiko umaarte, nagpapabebe!
Dating pelikula ng ating republika
makasaysayan at makahulugan
maituturing na isang sining
nababanaagan maningning na liwanag
 katulad din ng pinilakang tabing
kapupulutan ng mga ginintuang aral
mga talastasan at eksena 
mula sa mga aninong gumagalaw;
nang magdeklara ng Martial Law
nagsimula rin ang kasalaulaan
ng pamahalaan maging sa sinehan
kung saan mga hubad na katawan 
 pinagpipistahan, kunwari'y film festival
ang totoo ay karnabal.
Nagwakas din at nagsara ang tabing
ng malagim na yugto ng kasaysayan natin
bagong simula ang dokyu ng EDSA
kinalaunan naging trahedya
pelikula ng republika, naging telenovela at komedya
nang maupo tunay na artista ng masa, 
nagreyna sa media at chika
puro artista, kaya dumagsa na rin sila
naging zarzuela pelikula ng ating republika
naglabo-labo at moro-moro, gumulo nang gumulo
kaya heto tayo horror na nakakatakot 
nakapangingilabot kadiliman 
at kasamaang bumabalot parang bangungot
hugot sa isang eksena ng pelikula na sana'y matapos na.
Ngunit kung titingnan
mga pelikulang horror walang laman
puro kabobohan at katangahan
dinaraan lang sa gulatan 
hanggang maging katatawanan.
Hindi ba't ganyang-ganyan 
ating lipunan at pamahalaan
isang malaking pelikulang katatakutan
na puro kabalastugan at kahangalan?
Kaya aking payong kaibigan, 
sa susunod na halalan
tanggihan, huwag nang pagbigyan 
mga artista sa pulitika, 
mga pulitiko na payaso!
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Aral ng COVID 19, VI: disiplina ang gamot sa sakit natin

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-11 ng Agosto 2020
Larawan kuha ni Bb. Anne Ramos, Abril 2020
Habang tumatagal itong quarantine 
lalong ipinakikita hindi COVID-19
ang kalaban natin kungdi ating sarili din;
matagal nang sakit na hindi kayang gamutin
nakaugat nang malalim sa katauhan natin
kawalan ng disiplina kay hirap sugpuin.
Sa gitna ng kawalan ng maaasahan
sa pamahalaang abala sa kapalaluan
ayaw pakinggan mga paraan ng nakakaalam
disiplina nating mga mamamayan
ang pinaka-mabisang sanggalang
laban sa virus na galing sa Wuhan.
Tingnan, pag-aralan, at tularan
pamamaraan ng mga bansa kung saan
paglaganap ng COVID-19 ay nalabanan
laging matatagpuan dalawang bagay magkasabay:
mahusay at magaling na pamahalaan
disiplinadong mga mamamayan.
Masunurin ang turing sa taong may disiplina
na nagmula sa wikang Griyego na discipulos,
taga-sunod o alagad; sa wikang Latin, 
dalawang kataga ang pinagsama
"ob audire" na ibig sabihin "makinig na maigi"
kaya sa Inggles "obedient" ang isang masunurin.

Ang taong may disiplina
 masunurin sa tuwina
laging nakikinig sa mga sasabihin
upang kanyang tuparin 
mga ipinagbibilin
 ano mang atas na kanyang gawain.
Kung ating lilimihin lalim
ng kahulugan ng disiplina
ito rin ang siyang dahilan
upang ating matutuhan
kahalagahan ng pagtitiyaga
at paghihintay na atin nang tinalikuran.
Pagkaraan ng mahigit limang buwan
lahat na lamang sa atin ay dinaraan 
sa paspasan, pag-aagawan, at pagdarayaan
kaya hanggang ngayon wala tayong patunguhan;
kung bawat mamamayan mayroong disiplina
baka sakali tinablan ng kahihiyan mga kinauukulan
wala na silang dahilan sa kanilang kapabayaan 
dahil sila unang nagkulang sa disiplinang kinakailangan
hindi nila tayo maaring sisihin 
nagkulang sa pagsugpo sa COVID-19.
Larawan kuha ni Bb. Anne Ramos, Marso 2020.

Aral ng COVID-19, V: ang dapat dasalin, pagbabago natin

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-06 ng Agosto 2020
Larawan kuha ni Ezra Acayan ng Getty Images, Marso 2020.
Sa ating pananalangin,
turo ng Panginoong Hesus sa atin,
bago pa man kayo humiling,
batid na ito ng Diyos nating mahabagin;
at kung kayo ay mananalangin, wika Niya,
inyong sabihin:  Ama namin...
Gayong batid pala ng Diyos kailangan natin,
tanong ng iba, bakit tayo mananalangin pa sa Kanya?
At ito ang hindi nalalaman ng karamihan
mahalagang katotohanang dapat tandaan:
sa pananalangin ang pinakamahalaga ay
mabatid natin ibig ng Diyos mula sa atin!
Kaya naman sa tagal nitong COVID-19
sa dami ng ating panalangin, tiyak noon pa man din
alam na ng Diyos kailangan upang wakasan
pandemyang malagim na bumabalot sa atin
kumitil at nagpatigil sa takbo ng buhay natin
dulot sa lahat ay hirap maging sa iba ay hilahil.
Marahil kailangan na nating baguhin
ating panalangin sa panahong ito ng COVID-19
sapagkat wala sa gamot at medisina
sa mga botelya at siringgilya ang sa atin magpapagaling
kungdi sa pagpapanibago nitong puso at kalooban natin
na siyang laging ibig naman ng Diyos mula sa atin.
Sa gitna nitong quarantine nabuking
masasamang pag-uugali maging mga gawi natin
na sa gitna ng kagipitan at kahirapan
marami pa rin ang nagsamantala
naging sakim at makasarili
ibig ang lahat ay kamkamin, kabigin at angkinin.
Pandaraya at panggugulang, hindi patas sa mga patakaran
marami sa pamahalaan at katungkulan naghari-harian
mga inaakalang kalaban hinigpitan
malayang pamamahayag pinigilan
mga karapatan at dangal ng mamamayan
niyurakan at tinapakan, lalo na mga walang pinanghahawakan.
Larawan kuha ni Bb. Anne Ramos, Marso 2020.
Kaya aking bayan 
ating pag-isipan at pagnilayan
batid ng Diyos ating pangangailangan
ngunit hindi Niya ito kaagad pagbibigyan
dahil tanging paraan sa pagsugpo sa salot na ito
naroroon sa ating mga puso, wala sa nguso.
Harapin natin hindi ang COVID-19
kungdi ating sarili at pag-uugali na dapat gamutin
sa mga sakit na naglalayo sa Diyos at kapwa natin;
karunungang kinakailangan ibinigay na ng Diyos
noon pa man upang solusyunan virus mula Wuhan
tangi Niyang kahilingan mamuhay tayo sa kabutihan at katuwiran.
Mahigit limang buwan na tayong nagdarasal
ugali at asal nati'y makapal pa rin sa kasamaan
kaya marahil lalo pang magtatagal 
pagdurusa sa pandemyang ito na nag-ugat 
 buhat sa puso ng tao na kung di magbabago
uulit at uulit sa iba't ibang anyo.

Hindi normal ang new normal

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-30 ng Hulyo, 2020
Hindi normal sa gitna nitong pandemya
mayroong mga nagpapasasa sa kayamanan
at luho sa katawan habang karamihan 
naghihikahos at pilit idinaraos bawat araw 
maski mamalimos dahil kabuhayan nila ay naubos.
Hindi normal sa gitna nitong pandemya
nakukuha ng iba na matuwa at magsaya
kapag mga kumpanya ay naipasara o nagsara
gayong ito ang panahon kay hirap kumita
di nila alintana pighati at dalamhati ng masawi.
Hindi normal sa gitna nitong pandemya
sariling kapakanan inaatupag ng mga congressman
lahat ng panggugulang at kabalastugan
naiisipan habang buong bayan nahihirapan
ni walang masakyan sa pupuntahan at uuwian.
Hindi normal sa gitna nitong pandemya
na daanin sa biro at masasakit na salita
patutsada laban sa kapwa maging maralita 
na bantad sa banta ng gutom at kamatayan
simula umaga hanggang makatulugan na lang..
Hindi normal sa gitna nitong pandemya
kawalan ng katarungan kung saan
ang mga makapangyarihan di kakitaan ng 
kabutihan at pagka-uliran sa pagsunod sa mga
patakaran habang mga nasasakupan pinarurusahan.
Hindi normal kahit walang pandemya
ano pa mang katuwiran sabihin ninuman
ito ang panahon ng new normal dahil hindi
kailanman nababago ang normal
na siyang pamantayan ng kalakaran.
Kaya inyo nang tigilan
pagturing sa umiiral na takbo ng buhay
sa gitna ng pandemya bilang "new normal"
dahil ang karamihan kailanman 
ay hindi pa man naranasan tinuturing nating
normal na pamumuhay; 
sa tuwing ating ginigiit itong "new normal" 
lalo nang nababaon, nagigipit at naiipit mga maliliit.
Baguhin mga pananaw at kaisipan
ng umiiral na sitwasyon upang mapabuti
kalagayan ng mga kinalimutan ng lipunan
ngayon natagpuan kanilang dangal at kahalagahan.
Huwag nating hintaying dumating ang panahon
masahol pa sa sinapit natin ngayon 
na kung kailan sadyang kakalusin ang salop 
na ating napuno ng kalabisan
ng kawalan natin ng pakialam sa mga maling umiiral
sa ating lipunan at pamahalaan, simbahan at pamayanan
lalot higit sa ating tahanan at puso't kalooban.

*Mga larawan sa itaas ay mula kay G. Raffy Tima ng GMA-7 News maliban sa una at huling larawan na mula sa GMA News.

New normal is not normal

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 28 July 2020
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, March 2020

Experts have been telling us since the start of this COVID-19 pandemic that our lives would no longer be the same like before 2020. Even if a new vaccine and more effective treatment are discovered to fight this disease, life on this planet is definitely changed.

But, for better or for worse?

That is the most important challenge of this pandemic next to finding a vaccine and cure or treatment against it: that we seize this unique opportunity from COVID-19 to “reset” or “refresh” the world so we can all start anew by correcting the mistakes and excesses of the past to finally kickoff a true and meaningful growth and development among peoples, especially the poor and marginalized.

Photo from TurboSquid.com

This we can start – or restart – by immediately deleting from our vocabulary and consciousness that word we have been erroneously using since summer, “new normal”.

New normal is abnormal because norms or standards like morality always remain.

Washing of hands frequently, covering one’s mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing, not spitting everywhere are not new normal. Cleanliness has always been the norm since the beginning that we have that saying always true, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”.

Praying every day, individually and as a family especially the Holy Rosary is not a new normal. Connecting with the Divine has always been the norm of man since the beginning even before Jesus Christ came to the world.

More than half a century ago, the late Fr. Patrick Peyton has been saying, “The family that prays together, stays together; and the world at prayer is a world at peace.” Praying has always been the norm in our lives.

Normal or norms do not change because they are the standard measure. Even before COVID-19 came, normal temperature has always been 37 degrees Celsius, 12-inches make a foot, and so on and so forth.

So, please forget this abnormality of referring to our new way of living as “new normal” because it is not new at all.

Worst, this usage of the term “new normal” courtesy of the media, politicians, and policy makers is a dangerous indication of unconsciously or subconsciously perpetuating our excesses of the past that the Wuhan virus have rightly exposed: too much greed especially among capitalists, materialism and consumerism, and individualism.

From vaticannews.va

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI had long been speaking against these by describing it as “dictatorship of relativism”.

Acceptance of this term or concept that was actually coined at the aftermath of the 2007 financial crisis indicates that we are miserably not learning the lessons of this global crisis.

Our sights remain myopic, even blinded in looking at this pandemic without realizing at all how this was spawned by our own excesses and sins. Long before we have been told to maintain physical or social distancing to stop spread of the new corona virus, we have long been distant from one another. We have been spending more time with our computers and smartphones, trying to connect with friends and everyone in various social media platforms unmindful of the persons seated near us. “Table for one” in restaurants is fast becoming the order of the day than the exception to the rule.

My point is, accepting everything now as the new normal is also accepting wholesale the new ordering of things going on that continues to neglect the weakest and poorest among us. We are only perpetuating an error and worst an evil among us that we have refused to examine closely in the past.

This “new normal” is a conditioning concept that pushes the marginalized and disadvantaged people deeper into misery as the daily news tells us. Unconsciously to many of us, “new normal” is an excuse even a justification for the continued poverty and slavery of the weak and disadvantaged.

What a shame that while so many countries are suffering from COVID-19 like ours, Beijing is flexing its muscles around the world economically and militarily – right in our seas!- as if they are not bothered at all by this virus that came from their own province of Wuhan.

A very interesting read I have found last month was written by Nigerian Chime Asonye who rightly claims that “the new normal” “should not be the lens through which we examine our changed world”.

The ‘new normal’ discourse sanitizes the idea that our present is okay because normal is regular. Yes, there may be public health challenges, but these are issues that can be managed. We accept life under the omnipresent threat of disease as ordinary. But what exactly is normal about this pandemic? It is not normal for society en masse to be isolated, but if this is normal, then we are supposed to have control of the situation. Even if we feel loss or despair, we are expected to get used to it — accepting that this morbid reality is now standard.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/theres-nothing-new-about-this-new-normal-heres-why/

COVID-19 can serve both as a catharsis to our past excesses and a watershed for a brighter future.

The old system, or what people refer to as “normal” before in the world had erroneously set is not working, plainly wrong and abusive; why continue or import it into this coming new period?

As the pandemic rages on it gives us a chance to reimagine the world by tracing history, not forgetting it.

We should revel in the discomfort of the current moment to generate a ‘new paradigm’, not a ‘new normal’. Feeling unsettled, destabilized and alone can help us empathize with individuals who have faced systematic exclusions long-ignored by society even before the rise of COVID-19 — thus stimulating urgent action to improve their condition. For these communities, things have never been ‘normal’.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/theres-nothing-new-about-this-new-normal-heres-why/

COVIDS-19 is definitely not a punishment from God but a result of man playing God.

And like in the past, whether in world history or in our own lives when things go wrong even worst, God ensures to make ways that anything bad happening to us would always lead to something good.

Photo by author, Christmas 2019 in our Parish.

See how providential in the sense that microscopic viruses are reminding us that true power is not in being big but in being small, not in being strong but being weak — the very example of God to us when he became human like us more than 2000 years ago.

Unfortunately, his lessons remain unheeded up to our time even among us in the Church.

It is a most welcomed change in the midst of this pandemic that the Vatican last week issued new guidelines through the Congregation for the Clergy (directed to us priests) for the world’s parishes that can help us respond adequately to the challenges of this crisis (http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2020/07/20/200720a.html).

But, that will require another blog.

For the meantime, please stop using that abnormal term “new normal”.

A blessed Tuesday to everyone!

Pitumpung alagad… nino?

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-15 ng Hulyo 2020
Sa gitna nitong mga balita
sa garapal at walang kahihiyang
ginawa ng pitumpung mambabatas
na nagkait ng prangkisa sa Kapamilya
aking naalala sa Banal na Bibliya
kuwento ni San Lucas na ebanghelista
nang ang Panginoong Hesus humirang noon 
pitumpung alagad o pitumput-dalawa 
na sinugo Niya ng dala-dalawa 
sa bawat pook at bayan na patutunguhan Niya.
Sinabi Niya sa kanila
"Sagana ang aanihin, ngunit kakaunti
ang mga manggagawa... Humayo kayo!
Sinusugo ko kayong parang mga kordero
sa gitna ng mga asong-gubat.
Huwag na kayong magdala ng lukbutan,
supot, o panyapak.  Huwag na kayong titigil
sa daan upang makipagbatian kaninuman.
Pagpasok ninyo sa alinmang bahay,
batiin ninyo ng kapayapaan;
Manatili kayo sa inyong tinutuluyan, 
huwag kayong magpalipat-lipat ng bahay.
Pagalingin ang mga may karamdaman
sa bawat bayan na inyong pupuntahan 
mga taumbayan ay sabihang nalalapit na 
ang paghahari ng Diyos sa tanan." 
Inyong tingnan sa Banal na Kasulatan
ito ay malalaman, matatagpuan sa Lucas 10:1-12
kahanga-hangang misyon ng pitumpung alagad
ng ating Panginoon noong unang panahon
hatid sa tao pag-asa at pag-ahon;
inyong tingnan ngayon mga pahayagan
pakinggan mga balita ng labis na kasamaan
kawalan ng kahihiyan ni pakundangan
nitong pitumpung nilalang 
turing sa sarili at mga kasamahan "kagalang-galang"?
Sila ma'y pinahayo, sinugo
ng pinapanginoon nilang Poncio Pilato
asal nila masahol pa sa asong-gubat
kaayusan at kapayapaan tinapakan
at niyurakan ng kanilang kapalaluan;
sa bawat halalan pangako paglilingkuran
nasasakupan agad namang tinatalikuran
palipat-lipat ng kakampihan kung saan makikinabang 
sa sama-samang pagsamsam sa kaban ng bayan;
kunwari'y mabuti ang kalooban 
kaban-kabang bigas pinamimigay
milyung-milyong kapalit naman ang dinudugas;
kunwari'y malasakit para sa may-sakit
pakilala sa lahat ay kuya na tila kapamilya
pati turo ng Diyos sinasalaula
manang mana sa kanyang ama.
Sa pagsusugo ni Hesus sa pitumpung alagad Niya
binigay din Kanyang babala 
Araw ng Paghuhukom malapit na;
kaya sana itong pitumpung kongresista 
pati na kanilang mga kasama
mabatid ang usapin ay hindi lang prangkisa
kungdi kanilang pagmamalabis;
huwag ninyong punuin ang salop
dahil ang Diyos Siyang kakalos
at baka sapitin ninyo ay kalunus-lunos.

Isang tula para sa ating Kapamilya

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-11 ng Hulyo 2020
Kaya pala himpapawirin nagdilim
bandang alas-tres pa man din
oras ng kanilang patayin
doon sa Krus nakabitin
si Hesus na Panginoon natin
nang kanyang sabihin
katotohanang hindi maatim
ng mga tao na ang puso ay ubod ng itim.
Bandang hapon ko na rin napagtagni-tagni
pangyayari bago magtanghali
nasunog matandang simbahan
ng Sto. Niño sa Pandacan
kabila ng Malacañang:
hindi ba nabuwang Haring Herodes
nang marinig niya balitang sumilang
Banal na Sanggol kaya mga bata pinagpapaslang?
Hindi ko nga malaman
sino nga ba aking tatangisan ---
apatnaput-dalawang binawian ng buhay
nitong COVID-19 na tunay na kalaban
o mga Kapamilya na tinanggihan kanilang 
prangkisa ng mga hunghang 
na tuta at alepores ng bagong Herodes
na walang malay gawin kungdi lahat ay patayin.
Bayan kong ginigiliw
bakit nga ba kung minsan
ang hirap mong mahalin?
Hindi mo pansin panloloko
ng mga matsing?
Aking dalangin
sana ikaw ay magising
o mahimasmasan iyong pagkalasing!
Matatala sa ating kasaysayan
pangalawang Biyernes Santo sa taong ito
ang ika-sampu ng Hulyo, dalawang libo dalawampu;
pinagluluksa natin hindi lamang
pagpatay sa prangkisa ng ating Kapamilya
kungdi pati na rin pagyurak sa ating dangal bilang tao
maging sa mga sandigan ng ating sambayanan.
Umasa at mananalig tayo kay Kristo
sa pagsapit ng Pasko ng Pagkabuhay;
bagaman ito'y natatagalan, hindi kailanman 
natalo ng kadiliman ang liwanag,
o ng kasinungalingan ang katotohanan,
kung tayo ay lilingon sa slogan noon:
"Ako ang simula" ng pagbabago 
dahil kung tinalo nila tayo kahapon sa boto, 
bukas talo sila sa ating boto!

St. Paul in time of COVID-19: need for pastoral communication

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 11 June 2020
Painting by Raphael (1515) of St. Paul preaching at Areopagus in Athens, Greece. From wikipedia.

With houses of worship still closed despite the opening of most business establishments, here is the final installment of reflection in our series on how the life and teachings of St. Paul may help us in our ministry during this time of COVID-19 amid a perceived government “persecution” of the Catholic Church.

There is no doubt that like during his time, St. Paul would be using modern means of communication to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ especially in this most trying time of our history, using the internet as the new “Areopagus” with social media in particular.

Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said: “You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious. For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To An Unknown God.’ What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all that is in it…”

Acts of the Apostles 17:22-24

Social Communication

Perhaps before we go into our reflection, it is imperative especially for bishops and priests to be reminded anew of some important terms in communications; this is more than about names or nomenclature because for as long these terms of communications are not clear with us, all our evangelization efforts would be askewed as it is now showing with an explosion of online Masses and other religious celebrations.

First priority is to stop using the words “mass media” and even “social media” in our church communications because these are very limited in scope and context.

It is important to note that in the 2000-year history of the Church, it was only in Vatican II that we have issued a conciliar document on communication wherein the Fathers also introduced the term social communication as a new name for communications in the Church.

How sad that there are still bishops and priests using the terms “mass media” or “media” and lately “social media” when more than 50 years ago the Church through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit coined social communication to refer to “the communication of and in human society including all the ways and means used in this process” (Fr. Franz-Josef Eilers, svd, 2009 BISCOM-FABC, Bangkok).

Social communication is a very prophetic term because it is theological and rooted in God who is communication himself, sharing with us his power to communicate so we may also communicate with him and with others. Most of all, God continues to communicate with us and from that lies our task as a Church to communicate him to the world.

This is the reason why we have to keep on using this term “social communication” in our Church communications to keep us Christocentric, meaning, every communication in the Church and by the Church has Jesus as Message.

And that is essentially the kind of communication process followed by St. Paul the Apostle. In fact, reviewing his letters and the various accounts about him would show us that early, this great apostle has been into social communication, specifically “pastoral communication” that is an emerging field in Church communications whose realities have long been espoused by St. Paul himself.

Pastoral Communication

Pastoral communication is anchored on Jesus Christ, the “Good Shepherd” who sets himself as the norm and standard of our Church communications.

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.”

John 10:11, 14-15
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

St. Paul has always been very clear with this in all his communications that towards the end of his life, he had beautifully written his disciple this wonderful piece:

Beloved: I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; per persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient… For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”

2 Timothy 4:1-2, 6-7

Communicating Jesus Christ is always about self-sacrifice, about giving of one’s self like our Lord and Master. In whatever form of communication we use, it is always a call to “enflesh” the Word. In short, communication is spirituality that indicates the kind of relationship we have with God. How we reflect that relationship with God in words and in deeds, in our clothings and everything is communication.

Like St. Paul, he was able to offer himself wholly to God as reflected in his writings and preaching because he was more concerned with the needs of the flock and not with his own needs.

And this is where I sadly feel our bishops sorely absent and silent except for just two, Lingayen-Dagupan’s Archbishop Soc Villegas and Manila’s Apostolic Administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo.

Where are the other bishops?

Business establishments are almost all opening, even dine-in restaurants and yet, until now for no valid reason, the government continues to ban religious mass gatherings except for maximum of ten persons in areas under GCQ.

When are the bishops and priests going to speak out against this and open the churches so people may be spiritually nourished?

What an auspicious time for the clergy and hierarchy to speak against this continued closure of churches as we are on the eve of our 500th year of Christianization when under serious persecution. Has the Church grown timid in the face of an unfriendly government?

Worst are some priests who seem to follow more the secular world in their digital presence but empty of Jesus Christ, concerned only with popularity measured in number of likes and shares as well as followers.

Many of us have become more of personalities than as priests and ministers, unconsciously trying to be more popular than the Lord himself that we no longer have sacrifice of the Mass but a variety show, complete with sound effects and digital characters, some wit dance numbers and raffles!

When God is displaced, then our love is misplaced, then, we lose all communications too.

Communication is more than the expression of ideas and the indication of emotion. At its most profound level it is the giving of self in love. Christ’s communication was, in fact, spirit and life.  In the institution of the Holy Eucharist, Christ gave us the most perfect and most intimate form of communion between God and man possible in this life, and, out of this, the deepest possible unity between men. Further, Christ communicated to us His life-giving Spirit, who brings all men together in unity. The Church is Christ’s Mystical Body, the hidden completion of Christ Glorified who “fills the whole creation”.  As a result we move, within the Church and with the help of the word and the sacraments, towards the hope of that last unity where “God will be all in all”. 

Communio et Progressio # 11
From Google.

Problem with online Masses and religion

Every communication presupposes presence. That is essentially the meaning of God’s “I AM” in the burning bush to Moses and the “I AM” declarations by Jesus in the New Testament, especially in the fourth gospel where we find him saying “I am the good shepherd”.

Even St. Paul in his letters always began with his standard salutations like “I, Paul…” to indicate his very presence among his “parishioners”.

However, in the digital media, presence is not so essential and can even be faked both ways, either by being “taped” or “replayed” by viewers.

And there lies the great danger of online Masses and other celebrations: whether we like or not, online religious celebrations give the impressions on people that God is a “consummable”, a product or a show that can be had when most convenient to us like video on demand or the streamed shows of Netflix.

That is why we have to open churches soon to stop these online Masses except for those in the Cathedrals and in existence long before COVID-19 that cater to the needs of the sick and elderly in their homes.

Pope Francis has always been clear with this, stressing that these online Masses and religious celebrations are very temporary due to the extraordinary situation brought about by the pandemic.

From Pinterest/Aleteia.

Imagine the problem at Corinth that reached St. Paul’s attention, prompting him to write them another letter to reprimand them but at the same time to encourage them to mend their ways. It was a problem of abusing the Eucharist when St. Paul was no longer with them.

It is the same thing happening in many of our online Masses that have become variety shows to impress viewers. Long before we got into this lockdown, many priests have crossed the boundaries without knowing they have made fools of themselves as they rely more on “likes”, on being viral or trending, dishing out shallow reflections covered with cute song numbers, litany of greetings on air, and so many other inanities that Jesus is lost in the process.

Unfortunately, many laypeople are now also having their own digital preaching or evangelization with their own “productions” taking their cue from their showbiz pastors.

If St. Paul were with us today, he would surely write again to express his dismay at the people seeking more of entertainment than having Jesus Christ.

“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts may be corrupted from a sincere and pure commitment to Christ. For I think that I am not in any way inferior to these “superapostles”. Even if I am untrained in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

2 Corinthians 11:3, 5-6

Church communication is Jesus Christ and his Cross as St. Paul reminds us in his writings (1Cor.15:1-3); it is never about techniques or gadgets.

Though we need to be present online, the cutting edge of real communication remains in pastoral communication that means being present with others who need us most including those without internet access, witnessing to the values of Jesus in relating with people, bringing people together into a communion and helping them find answers in their search for meaning and directions in life, in making the right choices and in living their convictions and faith.

What we are speaking of are real people, persons and lives that matter so much, more precious than goods and commodities.

Let us not fall into the trappings of this “media revolution” that made one futurologist describe our contemporary society as

Technologically Intoxicated Zone defined by the complicated and often paradoxical relationship between technology and our search for meaning.

John Naisbitt

According to Naisbitt and other experts, while people prefer quick fixes online of everything, from religion to nutrition, while at the same time fearing and worshipping technology that had blurred the distinction of what is real and fake, the more they live their lives distanced and distracted — something we are already seeing even before the coming of social distancing!

To communicate in the Church at this time is to imitate St. Paul: be present for and with the people wherein we help them find their way to God by being their companions and “co-journeyers” in life, witnessing to them the Cross of Jesus Christ with our very lives as an offering and sacrifice, not as a commodity or a show to be “liked” on Facebook and Instagram.

And, lest we forget, it is God whom people must follow and worship, not us.

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.

Ephesians 5:1-2
Pope Francis praying before an empty St. Peter’s Square last March 27, 2020 at the height of COVID-19 in Italy.