Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Whether we like it or not, whether we realize it or not, we will all die. But death is not only the separation of our spiritual soul from our material body; it is also our crossover from time to eternity.

Of course, Sacred Scripture refers to certain characters who appear not to have died: “Enoch walked with God, and he was no longer here, for God took him” (Gen 5:24). “Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind” (2 Kings 2:11). Yet it is not entirely clear whether they in fact escaped death. In the case of the Blessed Virgin Mary, while Catholic dogma refers to her Assumption, “body and soul”, into heaven, we are free to speculate, as the Eastern Church holds, that, since death is the separation of body and soul, the Blessed Virgin did not die; she only fell asleep (Dormition). But the Blessed Virgin Mary is the only created human person exempt from original sin because of her unique role as Mother of God.

For the rest of us, we can expect that death will certainly arrive. It is a truth of our human nature as spiritual soul in a material body. Our bodies are composed of “matter”. Since all matter tends towards dis-integration, our bodies will dis-integrate and, therefore, will be separated from our spiritual souls. It is usually a wrenching, agonizing process because soul and body are so intimately united in man. Adam and Eve would have been exempt from death if they had not sinned, but that is because of the preternatural gift of immortality which they enjoyed while in the original state of friendship with God. The fall of our first parents resulted in the loss of these gifts, not only for them but also for us who inherit that “wounded” nature of Adam and Eve.

Since the human soul is a spiritual substance, it is not subject to disintegration or decay; it will continue to exist in eternity. Our greatest personal concern, therefore, should be what would happen to our soul in eternity. Life in time is the preparation for eternity. Time is where our free choices should direct our whole being towards our ultimate end, God. At the moment of death, the time of choosing ends; our soul will find itself in eternity. The state which it is in at this moment of death, whether for or against God, will be the state of that soul in eternity.

We often think of eternity as an endless continuum (infinity), “forever and ever”, which is valid as it refers to the absence of a point of beginning or end. But more precisely, eternity is simply timelessness. It is a dimension we can only vaguely comprehend because we live in time, i.e., in a universe that is in constant motion or constant change.

Time is an expression and measure of change. Our life in time is where we can change, where we can even vacillate between being for or against God. Eternity, on the other hand, is the immutability of God. It is also a mystery how God’s immutability accomodates human history and our existence in time. But we must hope that, at the moment we leave time and enter into eternity, our choices would have firmly oriented us for that definitive union with God in His eternal happiness—the “one thing necessary” (cf. Lk 10:41)—which is our perfection, holiness, sanctity, beatitude. Failing this, our lives would have been worse than meaningless, because we would then be (self-) condemned to eternal misery. We must constantly ask God to make our time on earth spatium verae paenitentiae, a time for true conversion. St. Josemaria writes: “Time is our treasure, the money with which to buy eternity” (Furrow, No. 882).

Since death is an event certain to happen, we would be very foolish not to prepare for it; that is, in terms of making sure that our time on earth is a continuing growth in knowing, loving and serving God. We do not know when (or how) death will come, nor what trials will test our love for God at that last moment in time; hence, the need to be constantly on guard, in constant training.

We all have a tendency to avoid thinking of death, especially our own, and therefore to omit preparing for it; but the thought of death should make us more conscious of the value of time—tempus breve est, “time is short” (1 Cor 7:29), as St. Paul reminds us—and therefore more prudent in the use of our time. Beyond merely avoiding sin, we need to sanctify our time on earth; generally, by living in the presence of God, converting all our ordinary activities into prayer; and, specifically, by applying ourselves to the fulfillment of the particular vocation we have received from God and fulfilling the duty of each moment. We will not waste our time pursuing goals which, although they may be good in themselves, are not in keeping with our specific vocation.

The thought of death can be terrifying and depressing; but not if placed in the context of our Christian faith. It is lack of faith that drives people to panic, to do anything just to cling on for a little more time to this world. For Christians, death is the passage into eternal happiness, to join all the saints who have gone before, especially St. Joseph, vir justus, the "just man" (Mt 1:19), who died in the loving presence of our Lord and our Lady, and who is therefore the patron saint, model and intercessor for a happy death. We also have recourse to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ianua Caeli, Gate of Heaven, who will ensure that we do get to enter into the Kingdom of her Son.


Friday, October 3, 2008


Yesterday, October 2, was the feast of the Guardian Angels. The Gospel for the Mass tells us: “…And Jesus called a little child to him, set him in their midst, and said, ‘Amen I say to you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whoever, therefore, humbles himself as this little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such little child for my sake, receives me…. See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you, their angels in heaven always behold the face of my Father in heaven.” (Mt 18: 1-5.10; italics ours)

While the Gospel reading teaches the existence of angels assigned to watch over and assist each of us, one cannot help but relate it with the present controversy involving the population-control bills in congress: The Gospel passage also says that, in God’s eyes—and so should be, too, in the eyes of His faithful—there are no unwanted pregnancies. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jer 1:5).

At the heart of the “contraceptive mentality” is the assumption that some pregnancies—or more accurately, that most pregnancies, especially among the many “poor”—are not or should not be wanted. The assumption is often presented as justified by considerations of the health of the mother and the economic well-being of the family. But this involves the implied premise that people have a right to an irresponsible enjoyment of the human sexual faculty; i.e., using the human reproductive power while rejecting its end.

Unlike the physical laws of nature, which man could legitimately tamper with and transcend by his creativity, the moral law (which governs the rational, voluntary acts of the human person) must be obeyed. If one were to enjoy the human sexual power so clearly intended by the moral law for procreation (as well as the union of the spouses), one ought at least to be open to this end. It should not be difficult to see (unless one were corrupted by extrinsic consideration) that the choice or decision not to get pregnant means not to have sex during the wife’s fertile period; and that, as the Church teaches, contraceptive sex—like divorce, homosexual intercourse, and masturbation—is objectively morally wrong. The contrary proposition translates into “free love”, i.e., sex without restraints.

Furthermore, while economics may appear to provide a valid basis for not having children, the validity is only apparent; not the least because “the economic situation” is, in fact, ephemeral (at times, even illusory).

How much income would “justify” how many children, and who can be the final arbiter of that? Today’s manager earning a six-digit figure monthly could tomorrow be jobless, diagnosed with cancer, or even dead of a heart attack. Conversely, there is nothing inherently impossible in the rags-to-riches stories that abound precisely because they carry an element of realism. It is logical fallacy to draw a direct proportion between income (transitory) and number of children (persons with eternal destiny). The State has no legitimate authority to mislead the “poor” (with propaganda or other inducements, using tax money) not to reproduce. “Responsible parenthood” consists not in having few or no children, but in the efforts of parents to raise those whom God has given them.

The whole notion of unwanted pregnancies also raises the question of “when” human life begins: It would be alright for a pregnancy to be unwanted if what the mother is carrying in her womb were not “human life”; because few could deny that “all human life is good in itself”, regardless of circumstances (hence, the Fifth Commandment of the Decalogue, “Thou shalt not kill”). Thus, contraceptives-pushers would assert that human life begins at “implantation” (notwithstanding that Section 12, Article II of the Philippine Constitution says “from conception”, i.e., when ovum is fertilized by spermatozoon), to cover up the terrible truth that certain “contraceptive” methods—such as the insertion of an IUD (Intra-Uterine Device), which prevents the implantation of the zygote (fertilized ovum) in the lining of the womb thereby killing the human life that has been conceived—are actually “abortifacients”.

Indeed, the beginning of life can be confused with “legal personality” (arising from the fact of “birth”), and “legal capacity” (acquired on reaching the “legal age”), which are different concepts in law. On the other hand, the moral norm requiring respect for human life (Thou shalt not kill) applies from its beginning, the moment of conception—because, from then on, what exists is distinct from the mother (it comes from the father as well); it is living (growing), and is certainly human (not any other animal). If there were room for honest doubt on this, the Church removes that (at least for catholics, for whom ignorance cannot be an excuse) by its teaching: “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception” (CCC, No. 2270).

Contrary to the stance of population-control advocates, the Church “forces” no one to adhere to its teachings: We are free; but our choices have consequences in objective reality, the most important dimension of which is eternity. So, watch out, cafeteria catholics.