By Dr. Col Dennis Acop (Ret)
After I optionally retired, a fellow officer once asked me why a former soldier like me was so into the Faith. If he thought my journey strange, I also surmised the same with his question. I just replied to him: ‘I am likewise surprised why so many sinners wouldn’t want to become saints for a change’. Faith is a Power beyond ourselves and what immense good that Power does for us is why it is beyond me that fewer than more truly engage that Power. Faith is also unlike what many think and believe it is. Happy are those who truly understand what Faith is and what it is not.
Man can always believe in himself as a god and live it. Until he, limited as he is, realizes he is not. For much of his time on earth, man feels that he has no need of God, that Power beyond himself. Feeling there is no God, the source of all that is good, man busies himself with Machiavellian worldliness — a ‘live and let die’ kind of lifestyle. Until he suffers a tragedy of some kind on his way to the grave. Parental abandonment. Financial loss. Marital infidelity. Betrayal of the public trust or moral order. Grave illness. Estrangement from family. Death of a loved one. Loneliness. One’s approaching demise. Blessed are those who recognize their wake-up call when it comes and align with that Order for their lasting benefit.
Faith is a Power beyond ourselves and what eternal good that Power does for us is why it beats me that fewer than more truly engage that Power. It certainly is not wishful thinking! I can speak for myself and my own Faith experienced. There are other faiths of course but since I am only really and truly familiar with my own, Christianity therefore is where I am coming from. I was born into it. My country was baptized with it in 1521 by colonizing Spaniards. I attended Catholic schools in the Philippines. My family is Catholic. Here are some of the things that Catholicism does to make holier lives of sinful ones while still on earth towards eternal bliss. Catholics believe that the Church is literally the Mystical Body of Christ, who is the Head. Babies are baptized to empower them early into this Body lest they fall into the powers of darkness outside of it. When more fully aware, their baptism is Confirmed by a Bishop sealing their belonging to Christ ‘branded’ by the sign of the Cross of the Trinitarian Deity. As the baby Messiah clandestinely came into the world in order to save it, Christians worship during each Sunday Mass to recharge them in the Sanctuary of Christ before they again leave it for the World of Sinfulness outside, the earthly battleground for the winning (or losing) of souls. By eating and drinking the Consecrated Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion, Christians put on the Armor of God who both created and conquered the world. By confessing their sins, Christians humbly surrender their imperfections to God through His Ordained after being knocked down so they can rise up again to face once more the ever charging forces of darkness in the world. Through the Ordained Priesthood of Holy Orders, Christ’s earthly army continues to be captained by commanders steeped in rigorous training from the Magisterium. Lest the army falls into grievous mortal error condemning souls than saving them. And when a Christian dies, his mortal body is graced with holy anointing preparing the departing soul for heavenly glory. The Sacraments, Churchly operationalization of Christ-inspired divine graces unto the earthly journey of Christians, guide the souls of the faithful on pilgrimage to their eternal home.
The influence of Faith on man is as compelling as it is universal and inclusive. Every soul counts. Every soul welcome. Not a soul wasted. To the extent that neo-natal ICU nurses would baptize a dying baby when no priest was around. My daughter would narrate how they at times had to baptize a dying poor baby at the neo-natal ward of the Philippine General Hospital when she worked there as an RN. People who confessed their sins experienced humility and peace. And the grateful optimism to become better versions of themselves on a clean slate. Those who experienced Christ in the Consecrated Host know how real lived Christian life is whether in visitation of the Blessed Sacrament or receiving Him in Holy Communion. Couples who were united by Christ in Holy Matrimony have the Source of all good as constant companion throughout their married life. Such grace extends to their families as well. Baptisms, Confirmations, Eucharist, Matrimony, Confessions, and Anointing cannot be without the Ordained so the faithful know fully well and appreciate the value of priests and bishops in their lives. And like a good parent who only wants what is best for his children, Christianity has codified Christ’s teaching into Liturgy and Holy Scripture so that followers do not fall into error and un-rightful praise. Central in Christian moral teaching are the Holy Decalogue and Christ’s Beatitudes — universal guides for ordered living.
Faith is also unlike what many think and believe it is. First of all, it is not man-centric but God-centric. Faith is not what man believes it is but rather what divine truth has been revealed to man. God does not need a man. But man certainly needs God. Faith is not emotional. It is ever-constant and unchanging. Mankind may perish and the earth may be no more. But God will always be around. Secondly, faith is not a lucky charm or talisman. ‘God is good all the time’. This may sound benign but whenever I read it, the saying tends to portray a leaning towards God only when the going is good. But how about if the going is rough like going through prolonged suffering or a death in the family? People who usually use the phrase are those who avoid suffering. I personally believe that God is good. Period. In both human joy and tragedy. I believe there is even more of God in human suffering. Simply because such magnifies than diminishes the supernatural nature in man. And finally, faith is certainly not exclusive. A faith built on any elitist platform that discredits holistic truth is a diminution of God and an accentuation of man. The moral order does not come in many shades. And so are the historical roots and divine source of that order. They are as constant as God is. The Perfection that is ever welcoming of every imperfection.