The Immaculate Conception Major Seminary based in Bulacan held Share The World Lenten Reflection, a five-consecutive-Friday Facebook Live where select priests will share their reflection/teachings on Gospel passages significant to our Catholic celebration of Lent.
I would describe myself as neighter spiritual nor religious, rather, I am someone searching, someone lost. Growing up catholic, I always belonged to Catholic groups/organization in my formative years of high school and college. When asked in my Citibank interview what my favorite subject is, I answered Theology, which probably did not earn me any points. However, even with such a backgroud, being away from a Catholic community after graduation, I found myself lost again. I guess all learning are in stages, we get to one stage thinking this must be it only to find ourselves lost and faltering again.
I find myself back to zero as I reached thirty. Zero probably isn’t true, but felt like it. As a household, we were never religious. We didn’t have meaning for Christmas, we didn’t go to church, the Word was not spoken in our home. My bias against the Catholic church grew as I began to view it as an institution which failed to communicate the true message of Jesus. For where then are my brothers and sisters who testify to his everlasting peace (Matt 7:17)? I’ve seldom been exposed to a devout Catholic who radiates that peace, everyone is so self-involved, so in the world. Some priests even talk about investment in the stockmarket during their homily without the necessary grounding that must accompany it for it contradicts Jesus’ teachings (Matt 19:21).
Thruout the half of 2020 and until today, I began to explore spirituality thru various teachers: Pramahansa Yogananda, Sadhguru, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, Eckhart Tolle, Ram Dass and many more. I’ve learned tidbits about Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism. I tell Carlo BFF (priest) that I have to uncloth my biases and prejudices before I listen to church teachings, when I hear mass, sometimes, even before I listen to him. I’m so grateful that with Carlo, there had been many conversations full of grace in which the Word and the deeds flows thru us unobstracted, such is the light of truth. Perhaps it is because I also feel him bear the light, both the light and the struggle to remain in the light. Perhaps because Carlo addresses his humanity and imperfections that he is more relatable and is closer to the people he teaches. Which is why I’m glad he’s the first priest I listed to in the ICMAS Lenten Reflection.
ICMAS Share the Word Lenten Reflection
All the teachings of Christ and the spiritual teachers I’ve been learning from speak of and point towards that One Truth. A surrender, a return to the creator, samadhi, transcendance, salvation, awakening, liberation, freedom from death and suffering—are all the same.
The Lenten Reflection has been very helpful for me as I am returning to reading the bible. Jesus (along with Mary) is the example of that perfect surrender to the will of the Lord and thus towards salvation. The challenge I see from the the reflections made by the priest is that they put emphasis on doctrine and lacks examples that apply to lay people’sday to day. For example, there were plenty of theological terms use; Greek and Hebrew words that give more depth to biblical text. These points add knowledge to the listener, but lacks the connecting to daily life which will help the listener experience the knowledge he gained. There were broad examples of course, but they pointed to religious practices which we do during the Lenten season—what they are supposed to mean and what they shouldn’t mean. Perhaps this is why it is so difficult to find peace in a Catholic context, the requirements are so great (sell your all your belongings and follow me; If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children..), it’s as if you cannot start with something simple.
Whereas, other spiritual gurus often reflect upon their own experiences and struggles and apply the teachings of the Bible and other religions to daily life. To them, the teachings of Christ and other spiritual beings such as Buddha, Zen teachers, gurus, all speak one truth, and thus is more universal, can be experienced by all and in the everyday.
There is a spiritual practice I started at the beginning of 2021. Like what Ram Dass teaches, “Everything is yoga.”—everything you do can be a way towards [Christ] if you do it consciously. Borrowing the key term “space” from Fr. Rico’s reflection. My spiritual practice happens everyday at home whenever I need to do chores or help my mom with simple things. She’s been suffering from a frozen shoulder and other ailments since the last quarter of 2020 and there are many things she’s unable to do. That space I give to her and to my father, is attention I take away from my thoughts and my self-centeredness. That space is that which I am empty and allow God to do his work thru me. And that work? Washing dishes, doing laundry, menial tasks, scrubbing my mother’s back, helping her take off her clothers, sitting with her, talking to her, giving my parents my full attention. All those can be a form spiritual practice. All those can be a way to God. All those can be the cross you carry with Jesus. The difference is, that you do it for the sake of it, not for your ego, not for recognition. But simply the need, the call for it is there, and you, empty of self, creating space for others, are able to respond to it.
I’m grateful that I’ve saught and learned from the words of other spiritual teachers not belonging exclusively to the Catholic church. For they have enriched the teaching of Christ so they can be applied to the everyday. So that the everyday can be as profound and grace-filled as Jesus carrying and being crucified to his cross.
I urge fellow Catholics, especially devouts to listen and read Ram Dass and Eckhart Tolle, and if you’re explorative, listen to Sahdguru, and read Autobiography of a Yogi. Fair warning from all of them: once you start your spiritual awakening, there’s no going back. Good luck!