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4 Roman Catholic Teachings violated at the Feast of the Black Nazarene

Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno
Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/biagkensiak/857870853/

Contrary to popular understanding, many practices during the Feast of the Black Nazarene actually violate teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

Unknown to many, the Catechism for Filipino Catholics (CFC) contains the church’s official teaching on idolatry, the most debated issue surrounding the feast.

In this article, we will put the CFC and the Feast of the Black Nazarene side by side to see how the tradition actually breaks Roman Catholic teachings.

1. The Black Nazarene or Poong Itim na Nazareno is taking God’s place and the worship He alone deserves

Paragraph 887 of the Catechism for Filipino Catholics reads,
“The First Commandment forbids any other god than the Lord . . . that any created thing should take the place of God and receive the worship due to Him alone. It thus rules out all forms of idolatry which is the ‘substitution of someone or something else for God.’”

The CFC teaches that an idol or a false god is anyone or anything taking God’s place in one’s life, and receiving worship in the form of prayer, devotion or praise that belongs to God alone.

We need only to observe the millions who join the feast, how they risk their health and lives just to touch the statue during the Translacion, and no sooner realize that the icon has already taken God’s place not just in the event, but in their hearts as well.

We need only to hear the fervent prayers uttered to the poon and see the throng of people waiting to kiss it to see that the statue is already receiving worship that belongs to God alone.

One devotee was interviewed in a news program in 2014 and his words are very telling. “Kahit na sinabi nating lilok lang ng isang tao yan at ay gawa ng isang tao ang isang kahoy na santo, pero para sa pakiramdam namin bilang mga tapat na Katoliko eh may buhay siya kahit na siya’y kahoy (Even if we say that it was only sculpted by a person, that a saint’s wooden icon is made by a man, for us as loyal Catholics, we feel that he has life even if he’s wood).”

2. The Statue of Jesus is pretending to be the perfect image of God

Paragraph 889 of the CFC states,
“No Carved Images. God reserves for Himself alone the right to express and produce images of Himself… But the perfect image of God is seen in the life and sufferings of Jesus Christ, ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Col 1:15), on whose face ‘the glory of God shines’ (cf. 2 Cor 4:6). It is Jesus alone who could answer Philip’s request, ‘show us the Father,’ with ‘whoever has seen me has seen the Father’ (Jn 14:8-9).”

The Catholic Church’s official stand is that “the perfect image of God is seen in the life and sufferings of Jesus Christ.” Notice that it is the very life and very suffering of the Lord that perfectly embodies God—His attributes, power and love.

The emphasis is not on the physical characteristics, not on the length of His hair or the color of His skin, or His physique or His facial features. This is so because Jesus’ main concern on earth is not to give an idea how God looked like, but to allow people to experience how God was like.

That He is a God of grace and mercy who forgives those who repent and believe. And at the same time, a God of justice who judges sinners for their rebellion.

These truths cannot be captured by one sculpture, but they can be seen and relived and experienced in the pages of the Bible. So instead of looking at the poon, why not get to know Jesus by reading God’s Word?

And even if some argue that the poon is a replica of the physical Jesus, its faithfulness to how Christ really looked like is in question.

I once asked a staunch believer in statues how he could be sure that the Black Nazarene is the true face of Jesus. His answer was not convincing, “Yan ang ipinasa sa atin ng mga ninuno natin. Siguro naman alam nila ang itsura ni Hesus (That’s what’s passed on by our ancestors. I think they would know how Jesus looked like).”

3. Many devotees have fallen to the temptation of making the Black Nazarene a substitute to the reality of God

Paragraph 891 of the CFC is perhaps the most telling. Here we read,

“Yet we must recognize the ever present temptation: from merely reminding us of God, the material image tends to gradually ‘become’ a god, an idol. In such fashion the bronze serpent made by Moses on the command of the Lord to cure those bitten by serpents (cf. Nm 21:6-9) was smashed by Hezekiah because ‘the Israelites were burning incense to it’ (2 Kgs 18:4). An image can either bring the reality it represents to mind, to aid devotion and attention, or it can become a substitute for the reality itself, and thus be an object of idolatry. Thus the First Commandment forcefully reminds us that God, the Creator, is infinitely beyond any of His creatures; no image or mental concept can ever ‘capture’ Him. Deus semper major-- God is always greater.”
The Catholic Church realized the Filipino’s attraction to the physical, thus condoning the use of images and statues for the sole purpose of aiding devotion and attention for the religious (CFC 890).

However, it also realized the temptation that easily comes with these religious icons—they can gradually overshadow the God they are supposed to represent. That is, these icons, over time, can become false gods themselves, causing the faithful to worship them, rather than God.

When we look at the Feast of the Black Nazarene, it is easy to spot how the supposed representation has now become the center of attraction. If it were not, why then do devotees put so much emphasis on being able to touch, kiss or caress the material representation?

The God that the poon represents is omnipresent. That is, Jesus is not bound in a single place for His followers to jostle and trample on one another just to be where He is.

In fact, we can even read His very words in Matthew 28:20, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus is with us always, wherever we are. Whether we are in the privacy of our rooms or in our offices or on the streets, He is with us.

So we don’t actually need to be near the poon or even inside a church to pray to Him if it is really Him we want to commune with. But if we insist on being close to the icon of the Nazareno, being able to wipe it with our handkerchiefs and kiss it with our lips, perhaps it’s the representation we’re after, not the God who’s supposed to be represented.



4. Many devotees believe that the Poong Nazareno has powers to grant their prayers

Lastly in paragraph 892 of the CFC,
“Catholic Filipinos are attracted very much to images and statues of Christ, Mary and patron Saints… the Church firmly insists on the valuable help such images can offer for authentic Christian prayer. Nevertheless, the Church is equally insistent on the proper use of such images, avoiding any and all appearances of making the images into idols, or treating them as endowed with some magical powers (cf. CCC 2132). This need for caution is confirmed by today’s ‘image industry’ which graphically illustrates how manipulative and deceitful human images can become, even holy images.”

Again we read that the Catholic Church allowed the use of images to aid the religious in their prayer. But it insists that there is a proper use for these images. They should not be transformed into gods, and devotees should not ascribe power to them.

But we have discussed throughout the article how the Black Nazarene has already become a false god in the life and heart of its followers. And in addition, they also treat it as if it has “magical powers” to grant them their requests.

Many of those who volunteer as namamasan (devotees who pull the Nazareno carriage through two long ropes) do so for various personal petitions. They believe that by their sacrifice, the poon will grant them their wishes, like the healing of a sick loved one or the deliverance from poverty.

Other devotees attempt to go near the andas (carriage) to climb it and personally wipe the statue with their handkerchiefs. They, then, believe that the cloth acquires miraculous or holy powers, transforming into a potent talisman.

These practices even caught the attention of retired Catholic Bishop Deogracia Iniguez who shared his concerns in an interview with ABS-CBN way back in 2009. He said, “They attribute some powers to the statue itself which is fanaticism, which is superstition. So something needs to be purified.”

In acknowledging that the poon has these powers, its followers unwittingly ascribe omnipotence to the statue, which is an attribute that rightfully belongs to God alone. Unlike the devotees, Job was correct when he ascribed power to God saying, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

We have spent a lot of words expounding the CFC to show where the Feast of the Black Nazarene goes against Catholic teachings. But in the final analysis, a greater authority leaves us with powerful words against idolatry. This is what we read from God’s Word in Jeremiah 10:1-7

1Hear what the Lord says to you, people of Israel. 2This is what the Lord says:
“Do not learn the ways of the nations
or be terrified by signs in the heavens,
though the nations are terrified by them.
3For the practices of the peoples are worthless;
they cut a tree out of the forest,
and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.
4They adorn it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so it will not totter.
5Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field,
their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
they can do no harm
nor can they do any good.”
6No one is like you, Lord;
you are great,
and your name is mighty in power.
7Who should not fear you,
King of the nations?
This is your due.
Among all the wise leaders of the nations
and in all their kingdoms,
there is no one like you.


Itinuturo ba ng Romans 9:5 na Diyos si Hesus?

Romans 9:5 “To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (English Standard Version)
Image Source: http://www.sovereigngrace.net/articles/god-flesh-part-i


Sa kasalukuyan ay may dalawang naghaharing katuruan sa Pilipinas tungkol sa kalikasan ni Hesu Cristo. May ilang naniniwalang Siya’y tao lamang. Sa usaping teolohiya, sila’y tinatawag na mga “Arian,” na hango sa isang mangangaral na nabuhay noong bandang AD 300, si Arius. Pinasikat niya ang paniniwalang nakahihigit ang Diyos Ama kaysa kay Hesus.

Sa kabilang banda naman ay ang mga naniniwalang si Hesus ay hindi lamang tao kundi buo ring Diyos. Sila’y tinatawag na “Athanasian,” na hango sa katunggali ni Arius, and mangangaral na Obispo ng Alexandria, si Athanasius. Itinuro naman ng obispo na ang Ama at Anak kabilang na rin ang Espiritu Santo ay pantay-pantay sa pagka-Diyos, sa kalikasan, at maging sa kapangyarihan.

At siyempre may iba’t-ibang bersyon pa sa pagitan ng dalawang kampo, pero bibigyang pansin lang natin ang nagtutungaliang katuruan. Ano nga ba ang katangiang taglay ni Hesus? Tao lang ba Siya? O buong tao at buong Diyos?

Parehong ginamit nina Arius at Athanasius ang Bibliya upang suportahan ang kanilang katuruan. Pero siyempre, hindi puwedeng dalawang magkasalungat na katotohanan ang itinuturo ng Banal na Kasulatan.

Maaaring tama si Arius at mali si Athanasius, o kabaliktaran. O kaya nama’y mali silang pareho. Pero hindi pwedeng parehong tama ang magkasalungat nilang katuruan. 

Pansinin natin na may “common ground” ang dalawang panig. Pareho silang naniniwalang buong tao si Hesus. Ang pagkakaiba lang ay ang salitang “lang.” Para sa mga Arian, buong tao “lang” si Hesus. Sa mga Athanasian naman, Siya’y “hindi lang” buong tao, kundi higit pa rito.

Mahalagang obserbasyon ito dahil kung makahanap tayo ng kahit isang bahagi lang ng Bibliya na nagtuturong Diyos si Hesus ay guguho ang pundasyon ng mga Arian.

Sa artikulong ito, iyon nga ang susubukan nating gawin. At ang bibigyang atensyon natin ay ang Romans 9:5.

Para sa mga walang Bibliya, heto ang nilalaman ng nasabing verse sa iba’t-ibang salin ng Bibliya:

“Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.” (New International Version)
“To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (English Standard Version)
“whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” (New American Standard Bible)
“Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.” (King James)
“Na sa kanila ang mga magulang, at sa kanila mula ang Cristo ayon sa laman, na siyang lalo sa lahat, Dios na maluwalhati magpakailan man. Siya nawa.” (Ang Dating Biblia, 1905)
“ang kanilang mga ninuno’y mga pinili ng Dios; at nagmula sa kanilang lahi si Cristo nang siya’y maging tao—ang Diyos na makapangyarihan sa lahat na dapat purihin magpakailanpaman. Amen.” (Ang Salita ng Dios Biblia)

Para sa mabilisang konteksto, sa Chapter 9 ng Romans ay mababasa natin ang hinagpis ni Pablo para sa mga Judio. Nais niyang sila ri’y makakilala sana sa Panginoon kahit na kapalit noo’y siya mismo’y mapasailalim sa sumpa ng Diyos.

Ganoon na lang ang panghihinayang niya dahil sa mga pribilehiyong ibinigay ng Diyos sa mga Judio. Sa panulat ni Pablo, “na sa kanila ang pagkukupkop, at ang kaluwalhatian, at ang mga tipan, at ang pagbibigay ng kautusan, at ang paglilingkod sa Dios, at ang mga kapangakuan… (Romans 9:4)”

Dagdag pa niya sa v. 5, “Na sa kanila ang mga magulang, at sa kanila mula ang Cristo ayon sa laman…” Kung baga’y nasa kanila na ang lahat at mula pa sa kanilang lahi ipinanganak ang Cristo, pero ayaw pa ring paniwalaan ng mga Judio si Hesu Cristo bilang Panginoon.

At bilang bahagi ng pagpupuri ni Pablo kay Cristo, idinagdag niya ang mga sumusunod na pang-uri sa huling bahagi ng verse 5, “...na siyang lalo sa lahat, Dios na maluwalhati magpakailan man. Siya nawa.”

Ayon sa ating nabasa, ang Cristo ay 1) “lalo sa lahat,” na nangangahulugang pinakamataas Siya, pinakamakapangyarihan, ang rurok ng buong sanlibutan.

Maliban dito, ang Cristo rin ay 2) “Dios na maluwalhati magpakailan man.” Sa simpleng basa, wala na tayong ibang maiintindihan kundi si Hesu Cristo ay Diyos na nagtataglay ng luwalhati (glory) sa habang panahon!

Kung nanamnamin pa nga ang unang bahagi, makikita rin ang katagang, “Cristo ayon sa laman,” na nangangahulugang ang Cristo ay may katawang tao o na Siya’y tao.

Ito nga ang kinatatayuan ng mga Athanasian. Si Hesu Cristo ay buong Diyos at Siya rin ay buong tao. Makikita ito sa loob ng Romans 9:5.

Pero nasabi ko nga kanina, kailangan lang nating makakita ng kahit isang bahagi ng Bibliya na nagtuturong Diyos si Hesus at sapat na upang mangibabaw ang katuruan ni Athanasius. Ito nga ang natagpuan natin sa Romans 9:5.

Kung ganoon, bakit mayroon pa ring naninindigan na tao lang si Hesus? Paano nila ipinapaliwanag ang nasabing verse? Nakalalungkot isipin pero ang pinakaginagamit ng mga nagtuturong tao lang si Hesus ay “mistranslation.”

Kung baga, ipipilit nilang isalin ang Bibliya mula sa orihinal na wika sa paraang umaayon sa kanilang itinuturo. Ganito nga ang makikita natin sa isang salin ng Bibliya na ginawa ng mga naniniwalang nakaaangat ang Ama kaysa sa Anak, ang New World Translation (NWT).

Ganito ang kanilang salin, “To them the forefathers belong, and from them the Christ descended according to the flesh. God, who is over all, be praised forever. Amen.”

Kapansin pansin ang malaking pagkakaiba sa kahulugan kumpara sa mga naunang salin kanina. Sa NWT, hindi na si Cristo ang tinatawag na Diyos. Kundi, inihiwalay nila ang dating dalawang paglalarawan at ginawa na lang papuri sa Panginoon.

Paano natin malalaman kung alin sa dalawang salin ang tama? Hindi ako iskolar ng Griyego na siyang orihinal na wikang ginamit sa Romans. Pero maaari nating suriin ito gamit ang isang “Interlinear Bible,” o isang uri ng Bibliya kung saan pinagtatabi ang orihinal na wika at ang wikang salin.

Ito ang Romans 9:5 mula sa isang online Interlinear Bible sa biblehub.com


Kung ating kukunin ang “word-for-word” na salin, ganito ang kalalabasan mula sa Griyego papuntang Ingles, “whose the patriarchs and of whom the Christ according to flesh being overall God blessed to the ages. Amen. (nasa kanila ang mga magulang at sa kanila ang Cristo ayon sa laman na lalo sa lahat Dios na maluwalhati magpakailan man. Siya nawa.)" 

Madaling masusuri na kahit sa orihinal na Griyego ay nananatiling paglalarawan ng Cristo ang “lalo sa lahat (being over all)” at “Dios na maluwalhati magpakailan man (God blessed to the ages).”

Dagdag pa rito’y ang bahaging “be praised” sa NWT ay isang pandiwa (verb). Subalit ang orihinal na salitang isinalin nito, “eulogétos,” ay isang pang-uri (adjective) na tunay na tumutukoy kay Cristo. Sa makatuwid, mas tama ang mga naunang salin kumpara sa ginawang NWT.

Makikita nga natin mula sa Romans 9:5 na Diyos si Cristo. Ito lang ang kailangan upang gumuho ang katuruang tao lang Siya. Ang mas kagilagilalas pa ay hindi nag-iisa ang Romans 9:5. Sa katunayan ay punong puno ng mga talata at verses ang Bibliya na nagsasabing Diyos si Hesus.

Titigil muna tayo rito. Pero sa mga nais pang makita ang mga bahaging nagtuturo ng pagka-Diyos Niya, heto ang isang maliit na listahan. Sa ibang pagkakatao’y susuriin din natin ang mga sumusunod:

Juan 1:1,14
1Sa pasimula pa ay naroroon na ang Salita. Ang Salita ay sumasa Diyos at ang Salita ay Diyos…14Nagkatawang-tao ang Salita at nanahang kasama natin. Namasdan namin ang kaniyang kaluwalhatian, ang kaluwalhatian ng bugtong na Anak ng Ama. Ang Salitang ito ay puspos ng biyaya at katotohanan.
Juan 5:18
18Dahil dito ay lalo ngang naghanap ng pagkakataon ang mga Judio na patayin siya. Ito ay sapagkat hindi lamang niya nilabag ang araw ng Sabat kundi tinawag pa niyang sariling Ama ang Diyos, na ipinapantay ang kaniyang sarili sa Diyos.
Juan 10:30-33
30Ako at ang Ama ay iisa. 31Muli ngang dumampot ng mga bato ang mga Judio upang siya ay batuhin. 32Sinabi sa kanila ni Jesus: Maraming mabubuting gawa ang ipinakita ko sa inyo mula sa aking Ama. Alin sa mga gawang iyon ang dahilan para batuhin ninyo ako?33Sumagot ang mga Judio sa kaniya na sinasabi: Hindi ka namin binabato dahil sa anumang mabuting gawa kundi dahil sa iyong pamumusong. Ginagawa mong Diyos ang sarili mo, ikaw na isang tao.
Juan 20:26-29
26Makalipas ang walong araw, ang mga alagad ay nasa loob muli ng bahay at kasama nila si Tomas. Kahit na nakapinid ang mga pinto dumating si Jesus at tumayo sa gitna nila. At sinabi niya: Kapayapaan ang sumainyo. 27Pagkatapos noon, sinabi niya kay Tomas: Ilagay mo ang iyong daliri rito at tingnan mo ang aking mga kamay. Iabot mo ang iyong kamay rito at ipasok sa aking tagiliran. Huwag ka nang mag-alinlangan, kundi sumampalataya ka.  
 28Sumagot si Tomas at sinabi sa kaniya: Aking Panginoon at aking Diyos.
 29Sinabi ni Jesus sa kaniya: Tomas, sumampalataya ka dahil nakita mo ako. Pinagpala sila na hindi nakakita ngunit sumampalataya.
Colossians 2:8-9
 8Mag-ingat kayo, na baka bihagin kayo ng sinuman sa pamamagitan ng pilosopiya at ng walang kabuluhang panlilinlang, na ayon sa kaugalian ng mga tao, ayon sa mga espiritwal na kapangyarihan ng sanlibutan ito at hindi naaayon kay Cristo.
 9Ito ay sapagkat nananahan sa kaniyang katawan ang lahat ng kapuspusan ng kalikasan ng Diyos.
Hebreo 1:8
8Ngunit patungkol sa Anak, sinabi niya:
      O Diyos, ang iyong trono ay magpakailanman.
      At ang setro ng katuwiran ang magiging setro
      ng iyong paghahari.



What Kakashi got right in the Gospel

Kakashi with his signature Lightning Cutter
Image from http://bs1.imghost.nu/images/1/103343.jpg

For Naruto Shippuden fans, there is one particular episode in the Madara arc that hit the core of human problem as described in the Bible.

This is a scene found in the tensed fight between Kakashi and Obito—friends-turned-rivals because of the death of one woman.

But first, a background. Naruto Shippuden is the sequel to the hit anime series, Naruto. It is the story of an orphaned boy’s journey from being despised to being adored as hero by his ninja village. Naruto became a powerful ninja in Konoha, defeating several villains and defending his home and people from destruction.

The story continues until we meet the antagonist, Madara, a powerful ninja who wants to place everyone in a grand illusion, believing that this will end all the pain and suffering in the world.

To achieve this plan, Madara teamed up with another ninja, Obito, a contemporary of Naruto’s teacher, Kakashi. Everyone thought Obito died because of a failed mission a long time ago, but he was secretly nursed back to health by Madara.

And unknown to Obito, Madara slowly brainwashed him into believing that the ninja system, the political structures and everything in the world they lived in caused all the pain and suffering of existence. This culminated in the death of Rin, the woman he loves, allegedly at the hands of Kakashi.

Left to right: Obito, Madara
Image from comicvine.com

Obito witnessed this with his very eyes. It fueled an intense hatred against his friend and cemented his allegiance with Madara and his plan to trap the world in an illusion, supposedly to end all strife.

Kakashi, Naruto and a host of other ninjas banded to stop this plan. After all, who wants a perfect world if this means ceasing one’s existence in exchange for utopia, but only in one’s imaginations?

Obito and Kakashi were naturally drawn to fight each other with all their unfinished business and baggage. And in their faithful battle, we witness the Bible’s diagnosis of man’s very problem in the very words of Obito.

As the two fought, Kakashi managed to corner his foe with his signature Lightning Cutter. But Obito placed him in a Gengutsu or an illusion where our protagonist relived the final moments of Rin’s life, only this time, it was Obito who thrust himself into Kakashi’s lightning weapon.

This move left a hole on Obito’s chest, right where his heart should have been. It didn’t hurt him because everything was just an illusion. Then, came a very telling conversation between the two.

I’m quoting the middle part of their exchange and edited out the non-essential details:

Obito: Look! There’s nothing in my heart! I don’t even feel pain anymore. Don’t feel so guilty, Kakashi. This hole was opened by this hellish world… Kakashi, enough already. You don’t have to suffer anymore… You can have anything you want in this Gengutsu (Illusion) World. The hole in your heart can be filled immediately.

Kakashi: Rin is gone. You are still alive! Do you really think something like this (Illusion Word) can fill that hole in your heart?... You can try and fill that hole with delusions all by yourself but that hole will never be filled.

Obito shows his empty heart.
Screenshot from Naruto Shippuden Episode 371

The famous quote of Blaise Pascal immediately comes to mind, “In the heart of every man is a god-shaped vacuum that cannot be filled by any created thing but only by the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”

Obito certainly has that hole in his heart which he tries to fill up with the illusion that his beloved Rin is still alive. Kakshi also has this hole, aggravated by the guilt of failing both Rin and Obito to their graves.

Believe it or not, we all have this hole in our hearts. It manifests uniquely for each individual. To some, it is a hole of pain brought by painful experiences and trauma. To others, it is a hole of loneliness because of broken relationships among loved ones and friends.

Still to some, it is a hole of confusion about one’s identity and personhood. It is a hole of purpose, a hole of acceptance, a hole of fear, indulgence, pressure, vices... the list goes on.

And like Obito, we struggle to fill that void with something, anything just to muffle the pain and give us a sense of peace and wholeness once more. But Kakashi is right. If we try to fill our holes with delusions, no matter how real they look like, “the hole will never be filled.”

This hole exists because God placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We are made ultimately for the eternal. Right at the very beginning, the human spirit tasted what it meant to be full with an unrestrained relationship with God, with a life of bounty and joy at the Garden of Eden without death, pain, and suffering (Genesis 1-2).

Yet the enemy deceived Adam and Eve, and so sin entered the world. With it came death, pain, suffering and ultimately, separation from the only One who can truly satisfy the human heart—God Himself (Genesis 3).

What we now have is a faint memory, a faded photograph, a blurred vision of that intimate walk with
God in the Garden.

Sadly, the enemy distorts even this longing for the eternal by masking it with temporal desires—the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and pride of life. And we run after these things!

C.S. Lewis is correct when he wrote, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too
easily pleased.”

Yet not all is lost. For the God who walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden has not abandoned us. He
said, “You will seek me and find me if you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).” Though sin has hidden His face from us (Isaiah 59:2), He can still be found when by His grace, He allows us to seek Him with all our hearts.

But how can we find Him if, to begin with, our hearts are empty? Apparently, God willed that we not just fill up the void in our hearts with the right things. He takes the empty heart, the broken heart, the heart of stone and changes it with something new—a heart of flesh that knows how to love Him (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

Why can He do this? Because one person came to “bind up the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1).” One person came to defeat sin once for all to bring us back to God—He is Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:18).

In our own strength we are unable to understand what we truly long for. But God came here on earth, became human just like us, to point us back to Himself (John 1:14). His very presence emphasized our true longing for the eternal, drawing us once more to what or to who can truly fill us (John 1:4-5).

I once had a hole of affirmation, among others. I tried to fill it with high grades, achievements, awards and honors. But when I was already on top, when I have achieved all I ever wanted, I realized that I was still empty.

Yet, God is gracious. He opened my eyes and showed me that He can change my heart if I will fully entrust it to Jesus. And I did. From that moment on, there is no turning back.

Maybe some of us are still like Obito, attempting to fill our void with things of this world. Or worse, denying our emptiness by plunging into earthly pleasures.

Wherever we are right now, listen to what Kakashi said, “You can try and fill that hole with delusions all by yourself but that hole will never be filled.” You know why? St. Augustine has the answer, “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in You.”

May God grant all of us open eyes and make His light shine in our hearts so we can see “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).”


6 Beliefs Filipinos need to double check with Scripture

Roughly 90 million Filipinos claim to follow Jesus. Whether their profession of faith is true or not is beyond my power to determine. However, true followers of Jesus are bound by one thing—God’s Word.

Christ said it Himself, “If you love me, keep my commands (John14:15).” True Christians live by Jesus’ commands found in the Bible. Even more, those who truly desire to obey Him search the Scriptures to check that their teachings, actions, beliefs and lifestyle do not violate His Word.

This was demonstrated by the Berean Christians who double checked the Scriptures every day to make sure that Paul’s teachings are true (Acts 17:11).

As Filipinos, we have several beliefs that warrant closer inspection in light of the Bible. Let us quickly look at six in this article. The discussions are not exhaustive and are here to encourage readers to study them further.  

1. Mary remained a virgin even after Jesus' birth
L' Annonciation de 1644, Philippe de Champaigne.jpg
Many Filipinos assume that because Mary conceived Jesus as a virgin, she remained in this state even after His birth. That is, she never had sexual relations with Joseph, her husband.

But a simple reading of the Bible will prove otherwise. In Matthew 1:24-25 we read,

"When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus (New International Version)."

The term "consummate their marriage" is simplified in other Bible translations as "have sexual relations with her (New Living Translation)," "did not know her intimately (Holman Christian Standard Bible) and “sinipingan” in the Magandang Balita Biblia.

If this is not enough, we can even read in Mark 6:3-4 that Jesus had biological half-brothers and half-sisters. This is what Mark wrote,

“‘Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’”

2. The 10 commandments

Most Filipinos read the 10 Commandments not in the Bible but on giant stone tablets that adorn many places of worship. They are supposedly simplified versions of Exodus 20:1-17.

But a simple comparison of the 10 Commandments in the Bible and the commandments on the stone tablets reveals a key difference.

This is a photo of the 10 Commandments at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Iloilo taken by historicphilippines.com


Now, this is the actual text of Exodus 20:1-17

And God spoke all these words:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

The Bible specifically prohibits worship of graven images or statutes and religious icons. Thus, we have a unique second commandment based on Exodus 20:4-5, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them…"

This is written distinctly from the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me,” which is based on verse 3.

If one doubts this prohibition, we need only to supplement this with Psalm 115:2-8 that tackles the issue of idol worship graphically. In this Psalm we read:

Why do the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”
 Our God is in heaven;
    he does whatever pleases him.
 But their idols are silver and gold,
    made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
    eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
    noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands, but cannot feel,
    feet, but cannot walk,
    nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them,
    and so will all who trust in them.

The sad omission of this vital commandment has led many Filipinos to believe that praying to statues and adoration of images are Biblical. A closer look at the Bible, however, reveals that these practices go against God's Word.

How about the two commandments against covetousness in the stone tablets? These should rightfully be combined because they are written as one in Exodus 20:17. Why split what was originally written together in the Bible?

3. Salvation by doing good

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When heaven and hell and the salvation of one's soul are discussed, majority of Filipinos mistakenly think of a scale. Borrowing from the idea of “karma,” they believe that people’s destiny is dependent on whether or not they can do enough good to outweigh their sins and tip heaven on their favor.

They think that as in a balance, when God weighs a person's deeds, the good acts should overcome the bad so that he can have eternal life in heaven.

However, a plain reading of Ephesians 2:8-10 reveals God's will on this matter. Paul writes,

"8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

A person is saved NOT by good works but by God's grace which is received through faith in Jesus. By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone can one gain eternal life. If, by God’s grace, we believe in Jesus as personal Lord and Savior, we are saved!

So what are good deeds for? Notice verse 10. The good that we do have been prepared beforehand as evidences of genuine faith. That is, good works are the result NOT the prerequisite of salvation.

4. Having a religion equals faith in God
Immaculate Concepcion church at Oslob, Cebu
Many religious Filipinos equate their devotion to a certain religion as faith in the Living God. They think that because they are members of a certain church and attend to their religious obligations, they already have genuine faith.

However, faith in the Bible is richer than this simplistic view. When we read Romans 10:1-3, we find that genuine faith involves knowledge or understanding of the truth.

Paul writes,

“Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”

One cannot just follow something blindly. To say that faith exists, a person needs to understand what he believes in. In the case of Biblical Christianity, he needs to understand the Gospel message.

The Gospel tells us that all human beings have sinned and are now separated from God (Romans 3:23), condemned to suffer eternal death (Romans 6:23). But by God’s grace, He sent Jesus to take the death penalty (Romans 5:8) and provide a way to reconcile people to God (1 Peter 3:18). He died on the cross as our substitute but rose again (1 Corinthians 15:2-4), promising eternal life to everyone who believes in Him as personal Lord and Savior (John 3:16).

But not everyone who knows the Gospel message possesses genuine faith. James 2:19 even tells us, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.” Demons believe, in the sense that they know God’s Word, but instead of faith, they shudder in fear.

This is so because the second element of genuine faith is persuasion. Knowing something is not enough, we have to be convinced that what we know is true. We have to believe that we are sinners, that we are separated from God, that we will one day suffer in hell for our rebellion.

And if we’re convinced by these, we must naturally be persuaded of the need for a Savior and that this is no other than Jesus.

Finally and most importantly, as in Apostle Paul’s experience recorded in Acts 26, genuine faith entails personal trust in Jesus. We do not just know, we’re not just convinced, ultimately, we surrender our entire lives to Jesus.

This is how genuine faith looks like in the Bible—intellectual knowledge, intellectual persuasion and whole-hearted trust in Jesus.

5. Who becomes a saint
http://sanpedrocalungsod.com
The country rejoiced in 2012 when another Filipino was declared a “saint” after meeting the strict criteria laid down by religious institutions. This set of criteria makes people believe that being a saint is reserved only to the holiest and most pious followers of God.

However, we can read throughout the New Testament that all true believers in Jesus are called saints. Two telling examples are read in Acts 9:13 and Acts 9:32 where Luke called Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem and Lydda “saints,” “believers” or “holy people.” Notice that the terms are interchangeable.

And perhaps none is more telling than 1 Corinthians 1:2 where we read,
 “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours…”

Paul makes plain that those who belong to the Church of God in Corinth are called to be “saints,” “believers” or “holy people” together “with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Does “every place” include the Philippines? Certainly! Even Filipinos who consider Jesus as Lord are saints of God.

The Bible shows from these examples that being a true follower of Jesus, believing in Him as personal Lord and Savior, makes one a saint in God’s eyes. After all, to be a saint (Gk. hagios) means to be set apart (holy) for God’s work and for the expansion of His Kingdom.

No one fits this description but God’s people, true followers of Jesus.

6. We lose nothing when we believe in swerte or luck
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Many times we hear Filipinos say, “Wala namang mawawala kung maniniwala sa swerte.” Thus, every new year, we watch several TV segments about feng sui and astrology in an attempt to improve our luck.

But this seemingly innocent tradition and hobby, actually attacks the very character of God. The concept of luck is foreign in the Bible because it presupposes the absence of an all-knowing, all-powerful, benevolent and sovereign God.

Luck, after all, leaves our lives to chance. There is no assurance about anything because the universe operates randomly.

But in the Bible, we see that God is in control of the universe. In Psalm 115:3 we read, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.”

No knowledge escapes His mind, be it about the vastness of the universe or our personal lives. These are demonstrated clearly in Psalm 139:2-4,

“You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.”

and in Psalm 147:4, “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.”

All these are true because God created everything there was, is and ever will be. God bares this in Job 38 where He challenged Job,

“6 Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone….
“Who shut up the sea behind doors
    when it burst forth from the womb,
9 when I made the clouds its garment
    and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
    and set its doors and bars in place,
“Have you ever given orders to the morning,
    or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
    and shake the wicked out of it?
“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
    Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
These six items are but some of the beliefs Filipinos need to be more critical of. If we truly desire to obey God and His commands, the best place to start is in the Bible. Why don’t we spend more time reading and understanding it so that we can see for ourselves whether the things we practice are true?

Let us not depend on the media or other people or even this article to tell us what to believe. Instead, let us immerse ourselves in God’s Word, studying it diligently, to find out “if these things were so.”
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