Friday, November 30, 2007

Mindanao Week of Peace - Bike for Peace

This morning over 400 cyclists participated in the 6th Bike for Peace which I organized as part of the celebration of the Mindanao Week of Peace. We gathered at the Rizal Park at 7 am. By 8:00 am after the send off ceremony presided by Bishop George Rimando we started our 30 km journey for peace around the city. There were 24 participating biking clubs, including the bikers of the Eastern Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. Judge Renato Fuentes also biked with us. After two hours of biking we finished at the Rizal Park.

The celebration of the Mindanao Week of Peace started yesterday with the walk for peace and the opening ceremonies and will end on December 5. Besides the Bike for Peace there will also be a concert for peace, youth peace camp, a gathering of Catholic priests, protestant pastors and Muslim Imams.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Rumor of Evil Spirits and Angels

Over two weeks ago, a father brought his nine-year old daughter to the monastery. He told me that the girl had been seeing evil spirits and was even possessed a number of times. She would faint and then when she woke up she would have a different voice. The father asked me if can I heal her. The girl looked dazed and frightened.

I was on the verge of telling him to bring her daughter to the psychiatrist. But I told myself - no use telling the father and child that these were just hallucinations or some form of hysteria. So I prayed over the girl and asked God to send a guardian angel to watch over her. I sprinkled her with holy water. After blessing the girl I told her not to be afraid, her guardian angel would be there to protect her and the evil spirits won't be able to harm her. I also told the father to come back after a few weeks and report to me any progress.

This evening, just before mass, the father came with his daughter. The girl looked very well. The father told me that her daughter has been healed. He recounted that as they were leaving the monastery, the girl told her that she could see her guardian angel. For a week, the evil spirits tried to come near her but she was not afraid because her guardian angel was there to protect her. So after a while the spirits were gone.

I really don't know whether the evil spirits and the guardian angel were just the product of her imagination. What is important is that she's well. My prayer seemed to have an effect on her.

In this day and age, it is very difficult to believe in evil spirits and angels. We have been influenced by a rational-scientific world-view that rules out the reality malignant spirits and angels. What you see is what you get. Everything can be scientifically explained. If there are cases like the one above let the psychiatrist take care of that. Yet, the rumor of spirits and angels persist. And they are very real to many people. And the doctors and psychiatrist are helpless to deal with these cases.

I have not seen or felt the presence of spirits and angels. But does it mean that they do not exist? Of course, the Sacred Scriptures affirm their existence. But it is difficult to determine which ones are real and which one are just hallucination.

I really hope that angels do exist and I wish I can see them. Maybe there are here but I do not recognize them.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Becoming peace-makers: Peace begins with me

The tents have sprouted in the grounds of the parish since yesterday. There are around 400 youth delegates coming from the various Basic Ecclesial Communities in our parish who are participating in the Parish Youth Encounter.

This morning the delegates were divided into smaller groups to listen to various speakers on various topics. I was assigned to talk about "Becoming Peacemakers." There were over 60 young people who attended. During the first part of the morning I divided them into 4 groups and asked them to prepare a drama on 4 various topics (domestic violence, neighborhood/gang violence, Christian-Muslim Conflict, the armed conflict between the NPA and the military). After 45 minutes of preparation they were able to present dramas that depict the spiral of violence and culture of death in society. Afterwards, I gave my talk on "Peacemaking." Here's the gist of my talk:

1. There's violence all around us - in the home, in the neighborhood and communities, between religious/ethnic groups, between the revolutionary armed groups and the military. Violence has become a way of life that leads to suffering and death. For many violence is a means for expressing anger and frustration, of getting even, an instrument of achieving their goals (justice, freedom, social tranformation), or for defence or security. Violence may be fueled by anger, fear, or cold-blooded calculation/rationalization based on an ideology.

2. Amids this spiral of violence and culture of death, we are called by Jesus and our Church to become peacemakers. "Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called the children of God."
To be Christians is to be peacemakers.

3. "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." Peace begins with me, in me. In order to become peacemakers, we need to achieve peace within each one of us - inner peace. This means rooting out the seeds of violence in our minds and hearts. This requires being healed of the wounds within us, of overcoming the anger, hurt, resentment, and the desire for vengeance. This means turning our heart of stone into a heart of flesh - capable of compassion, love, care, forgiveness and reconciliation. This also requires learning to respect others - their dignity, their rights, and the differences - and to value life. This requires recognizing one another as brothers, sisters and friends, and entering into dialogue with them.

4. Promoting a culture of life and peace in our homes, neighborhood and communities. This means inculcating the values that promote peace (respect, compassion, love, friendship, dialogue, reconciliation, forgiveness, sharing, harmony, justice). This also means avoiding violent thoughts, speech, behavior and action.

5. Peace is not only the absence of war. It must be based on justice. There cannot be true peace without justice. But we can only achieve justice and social transformation using peaceful and non-violente means. Concrete examples of this (Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Ninoy Aquino, EDSA people power, San Fernando struggle against logging, peace zones, Christian-Muslim dialogue, etc.)

6. We need to work for peace in our homes, neighborhood, communities, in Mindanao and the rest of our country, Think globally and act locally.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Biking and Camping in Samal Island

Last Friday and Saturday, I went on a biking and camping adventure in Samal Island. I had said mass for the dead in the morning and didn't have any schedule the rest of the day and the following day. I started biking after lunch, following the JP Laurel Avenue and upon reaching Panacan, I took the ferry to Samal Island. Upon reaching Babak, I followed the coastal trail to Penaplata and then crossed over the other side of the island. It was already dark when I reached Dasag. It was scary riding in the dark, following a rough trail along the beach with just the headlight of my bike showing the way. After pitching my tent on the beach,I had dinner consisting of sardines, tomato and some wine. Then I started playing the flute. By eight thirty, I began my meditation, while watching the distant lights coming from fishing boats and listening to the waves. I was asleep by ten. Then I was awakened by the heavy rain that poured on my tent. Luckily, I survived without getting wet.

I was up early in the morning and had morning prayer. I then had breakfast of sardines and tomato, without the wine. I spent the rest of the morning gazing at the sea and reflecting on my life. Then it was time to go back home to the monastery.
This is what I enjoy doing - it is very relaxing and I feel close to nature and the Creator. I should do this more often.