Have you ever noticed how we are always inclined to place much greater importance on the things of this world, and to trivialize the things of the divine?
And why shouldn’t we? Earthly subjects, not heavenly subjects, constitute our everyday reality. These are the objects we see and need not imagine in our conscious existence.
“Paradise”, “spirits”, “angels”, “demons”, “inferno” or “gods” are on the other hand, objects we do not see and thus, requires our reasoning to imagine or believe in their ethereal presence. Hence, we need not be surprised if we tend to pay more homage to the Caesar of materialism and economism, simply because it is already working with a “given”; while the God of spirituality does not.
The difficulty of systematically shaping our human perspective of the sacred, vis-à-vis the much easier option of living in a direct and quick engagement with the profane, is perhaps no more conspicuous than in our preoccupation with politics and entertainment.
We have a nearly deifying veneration of our favorite artists and personalities on mass media, for example. Their images consume us, maybe because we are yearning for visible perfections amidst the imperfections of our daily drudgery. Compared to religion, they are a much less boring fantasy to create, which may explain why we can spend hours tuned in to Twitter or Instagram, but dread spending fifteen minutes praying the rosary.
The same is also true in our preoccupation with the business of not just making enough money, but with making as much money as we can. Who wouldn’t be stimulated to action if you already knew how to earn enough wealth to acquire that new “dream car” or “dream house”; that vacation we never thought possible; those clothes and jewelry we imagined we could never own; or the prestige and power we believed we could never indulge in? Thanks to these gurus of pseudo-success, our mundane lives are fixated to the goals of a temporal yet fleeting prosperity. And thanks to them, we are less attracted to the virtues of sacrifice and to its fruits in what they deem to be a concocted “afterlife”.
Our attraction for the peculiar and the sensational is driven by our wishful desire to consistently affirm that life is not that dull, and that nature will always offer its exciting moments. These preoccupations offer a more satisfying level of tangibility to our cravings for a “heaven on earth”. So, we can now bluntly ask ourselves: Why should we then pay more homage to God?
Isn’t he a persistently meddling Spirit? The reason why we are being dragged every Sunday to Mass, when we have “more important” things to do? Isn’t he the pestering conscience behind those ten Commandments, that bothersome voice insisting we resist sweet temptations and follow the harder path? Isn’t he making us much less happy or more miserable with frequent Confession? Isn’t he just needed for blessings on birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and funerals?
But where has all this earthly thinking led us to? What has become of the vision of our own “heaven on earth”? Is war, hunger, poverty, indifference, alienation and despair the desired outcome of our utopian fantasies?
Have we not yet experienced that with this pride of ours, there will be no peace? And have we not yet realized that peace can come only with a price: the death to the self, so that the value of the insignificant others, may be raised to its real worth?
The cross is the indelible symbol he gave us of the price we must all pay for this peace, for an authentic “heaven on earth”. God may be unattractive in many ways, but he cannot fail to draw us into the wisdom of his compassion and the beauty of his humility, revealed in the person of the Christ.
In his humanity, Jesus showed us how selflessness triumphs, by preaching about a caring God. He taught us how God wishes to support us in our labors, and how he wants to rejoice in our triumphs. He demonstrated to us that in spite of all his power, God is the only spirit committed to stay with us in our journey; he is the only spirit who in his love, remains with us in our mistakes. In the most vivid way, Jesus proved that God is prepared to die for us.
In dark times, who has not felt this awesome presence? We are thus called to pay more homage to God by selflessly bringing his presence to the suffering world.
Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS.news.