Last September 21, feastday of Saint Matthew, the tax-collector called by our Lord to be an Apostle, I joined the ranks of senior citizens—while enjoying my birthday leave in Port Barton (San Vicente, Palawan); feeling blest to have attended the Holy Mass celebrated by the young Parish Priest, my fellow Cuyunon, Father Jan Albert Palay, and to have stayed at the resort of Punong Barangay Ricky De Jesus whose mother, Elsa (same name as my mother’s), a former Punong Barangay herself, was a strong political ally of my late father, Badong. I give thanks to God for the gift of life, and all the graces and blessings along the way (including the little crosses and falls that have led to contrition).
Birthdays are also a special time for taking stock of one’s life, of the direction it has been taking; which, I suppose, can be even more significant at turning 60, when one gets categorized as “elderly”. And so I spent the day recalling that the end of man is union with God: that the purpose of human existence is to know, love, and serve God, and so to share in His eternal happiness (the “one thing necessary” [cf. Lk 10:38-42]). This is, essentially, the “doctrine of the universal call to holiness” that God wanted Saint Josemaría Escrivá to spread, which he “saw” and for which he founded Opus Dei (Latin for “Work of God”) on October 2, 1928, on the feastday of the Holy Guardian Angels. Sacred Scripture proclaims this call for each of us to grow in holiness, in union with God: “You must therefore be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44-45). As Saint Paul puts it: “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Th 4:3). And as our Lord Himself commanded: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). Indeed, we are all sinners called to be saints—a lifetime project achievable by God’s grace with our free cooperation.
Saint Josemaría writes: “I readily understand those words of St Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, which ring out like a wonderful hymn to freedom, ‘God who created you without you, will not save you without you’. Every single one of us, you and I as well, always has the possibility, the unfortunate possibility of rising up against God, of rejecting him (perhaps by our behaviour) or of crying out, ‘we do not want this man to rule over us’” (Friends of God, No. 23).
Integral to the message of Saint Josemaría is the idea that, for the vast majority of Christians who are “lay people” (neither clerics nor belonging to religious orders), our ordinary work, daily tasks, are means for our sanctification—if done well and for love of God. Thus, Opus Dei is also described as “a way of sanctification in daily work and in the fulfilment of the ordinary duties of a Christian.”
Incidentally, it is no accident that Opus Dei was founded on the feast of the Guardian Angels: To Saint Josemaría, they are a clear proof of God’s Fatherly care for each individual person—He gave each of us an Angel (superior to us, humans) to serve as our guardian (helper or yaya)—consideration of which (our “divine filiation”) is the foundation of the spirit of Opus Dei.
Speaking of work, and considering that this October 1 is the start of the period for filing Certificates of Candidacy (COCs) for the May 9, 2022 National and Local Elections (which period ends on October 8), it seems appropriate to consider that the work of our politicians must be sanctifiable, too.
Politics—the art of government—is an authentic human reality that can and must be sanctified (offered to God) and can be a means for our sanctification. It pertains to our true human nature (as distinguished from the bundle of disordered tendencies that reflect our wounded nature) as social beings. Thus, Vatican II teaches: “Those who are suited or can become suited should prepare themselves for the difficult, but at the same time, the very noble art of politics, and should seek to practice this art without regard for their own interests or for material advantages”. (Gaudium et Spes, No. 75)
Indeed, society needs politicians—primarily to make “political decisions”, i.e., choices that need to be made, on behalf of the community, which are within the free range of options allowed by law and morality. Some might insist that “science” should be included alongside law and morality; but I humbly submit that, if an option were truly scientifically objectionable, its choice would already be immoral.
“Political questions” then are, precisely, issues that cannot be fully resolved by existing moral or legal norms, and that therefore are left to the free choice of the majority. In this sense, every citizen is also making a political decision in choosing whom to vote for, from among the list of legally-qualified candidates. But the flipside of this freedom in making political decisions is the responsibility in terms of reaping the costs or benefits of our choices. And it is worth remembering that political decisions are a matter of free choice—kursunada lang—perhaps because of the difficulty of “mechanization” or of embedding the choice in some norm; and that, as human decisions, even if involving factors that may not be quantifiable, nevertheless require the exercise of Prudence.
I end with the prayer that, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our politicians (including myself) keep in mind that doing “politics” well and out of Love can be their path to eternal happiness. (28.IX.2021)