In the Senate inquiry on the PCSO, the normally demonized –depending on who is talking–protagonists showed their best side. The bishops humbly accepted their mistake and the Senators admirably pointed to the real issues in the controversy. It brought out the best in everybody
Over 30 years ago, I met the very first student I mentored. At the start of the school year, I spotted his talent through the first major paper I assigned to the class. His was the best I saw in my three years of teaching prior to entering the seminary. I gave him a 97, the highest I ever gave for that assignment.
In the third quarter of that school year, I put him in-charge of a major school drive, which he ran so well. In the school assembly that capped the drive, the school administration acknowledged his leadership and the tremendous success of the drive.
Before he graduated, he talked to me to thank me for trusting him to run the drive. In that conversation, he asked me if I knew his background. When I said “no,” he said I might have not entrusted to him the running of the major school drive. Turns out that among the boys then, his reputation preceded him as a ladies’ man and a toughie, or more to the point, babaero and basagulero.
This student went on to become a student leader in the Ateneo college and law school. He had a distinguished career in government and an equally distinguished career in the corporate world here and abroad. His great dream and love is to live a life helping the country and our people through government service. His involvement now in the corporate world is clearly a means for him to provide for his family, being a devoted husband and father, so that when he dedicates himself totally to his dream to serve, he will do so without worrying about his family and their future.
I remembered him when I read the readings for this Sunday, most especially the Gospel. The readings remind us to be more discerning in our judgments, to exercise justice with compassion. Jesus wisely counsels “…if you pull out the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them.”
This is such a timely reminder to us – most especially our friends and my colleagues in media—to be more discerning and to temper the passion for truth with care, or love for the truth and compassion towards all even as we fight for justice.
How often have we fallen into the trap—myself included—when a suspicion is sensationalized and evolves into a seeming truth with which people unjustly condemn a person? But let me focus on the more positive approach and simply leave this as food for thought.
My main work and advocacy now is teacher formation. In my work, I advocate a basic philosophy in education, especially in basic education, that teaching is a vocation of caring and the core of a teacher’s mission is to love her/his students into excellence.
In the process of our formation program we let people remember their experiences of care for them to feel and realize that through such, they have become whole and integrated as a person.
The end goal of our formation program, which we also conduct for other groups, is creating an environment of respect and care in the community or organization. In his book, “Heroic Leadership,” Chris Lowney points out that “…triumphs of humanity are also evident in actions we are too hesitant to call love… Those who treat others with respect and love are leading the way to environments of greater love than fear, where many more people will enjoy the chance to achieve their full human potential.”
This is the call I invite people to reflect on this Sunday: How can we treat one another with respect and love? How do we create environments of love and care to allow others to develop themselves and excel? We are called to create these communities of respect and love in our families, workplaces, schools, organizations, churches, groups.
Lowney, in his latest book, “Heroic Living,” writes:
“Our religious traditions often provide unparalleled wisdom but no straightforward approach for weaving that wisdom through daily life. My thousand-page Bible, for all its riches, is not a strategy. Our spiritual traditions provide answers but also leave us with an increasingly vexing question: how do I connect my deepest beliefs to what I do all week at work and at home? And so our challenge is to create a whole-life strategy that is both spiritual and worldly.”
How often do we feel the burst of inspiration in a retreat or seminar, or simply while listening to a Sunday homily or in the silence of our daily prayer? At that moment of inspiration we seem all set to make our corner of the world a better place, but the moment we step out into this world we seem to be at a loss with regard to where and how to begin.
Lowney articulates the challenge, how to create the “whole-life strategy that is both spiritual and worldly.” How does one balance heaven and earth in the day to day? I present a starting point, treat oneself and others with respect and love and build on this to convince others to create environments of love and care.
Let me end with a reflection on a recent incident, the Senate hearing last Wednesday on the PCSO issue where the bishops appeared. I did not watch it personally, but from the commentaries on the hearing that I heard and read after, the normally demonized—depending who is talking—protagonists showed their best side. The bishops humbly accepted their mistake and apologized, and the Senators admirably pointed to the real issues in the controversy, discharging their duties with great dignity. It brought out the best in everybody.
The first reading for this Sunday from the Book of Wisdom beautifully states: “But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and which much leniency you govern us… And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; and you gave people ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.”
I pray this will lead us to creating environments of respect and love in our families, workplaces, schools and whatever group or community we belong to. May we have more of these communities of respect and love “where many more people will enjoy the chance to achieve their full human potential.” This is sometimes—often—what a person needs, simply a chance.