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Martyrs for Jesus the Christ: Keep the Faith

April 14, 2017 1 comment

I watched some parts of a movie entitled “Silence.” It’s about Portuguese missionaries attempting to spread and sustain the Christian faith in Japan in the 1600s, at a time when the faith was outlawed and persecution was rampant. One missionary was killed, but eventually another one, the main character, was forced to apostatize (renounce the faith) to literally save the lives of Japanese faithful (and those who previously apostatized) from torture and death.  There’s an underlying theme of God’s silence throughout such hardship, which has lead the main character, a priest, to the edge of despair. Eventually the priest was forced to apostatize and renew his renunciation every so often until the end of his life.

The Church will continue to be persecuted for the simple fact that we’re a counter-cultural force in the world. In my opinion, I’d go so far as to say that if the Church isn’t being criticized or attacked for something, then we’ve failed to live out our duty to Christ. In these modern times the Church and even non-Catholic Christians suffer from one form of persecution or another. You’re lucky if you live in a country where the Church is just being criticized and ridiculed. What’s sad is sometimes the criticism comes from fellow Catholics and Christians; instead of trying to understand each other, we end up dividing each other instead. And there are still some nations where it’s illegal to practice the faith, and so you do so in secret under pain of literal death.

Martyrdom

The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will… even if that center is right smack in the middle of chaos. – one of my friends, Jade S.

The blood of martyrs seeded the faith of the early Church. In one form or another, such has continued to happen throughout the centuries, and still continues to happen in this day and age. This movie got me thinking about how far one would actually be willing to go to keep the faith.

It’s a lot to ask to be a martyr for Jesus the Christ. The experience in Japan, as depicted in this movie anyway, got me thinking that there’s an “easy way” and there’s a “hard way” to be a martyr. Both still involve horrendous pain, but the approach to inflict it can be “very involved.” The “easy way” is you’re subjected to torment. If it’s just you involved, then it makes the decision to die for Jesus relatively easier, because the worst that could happen is that you lose your life – it’s just you, and no one else. The “hard way” is if other people are held hostage: Give up the faith, otherwise other people will die. There’s an element of psychological torment in this latter approach because you somehow become responsible for the life and death of others – you have the power to do something to change that, but it will involve a cost too great to bear.

When it comes to the “hard way” of martyrdom, you lose with whatever decision you make. Strictly speaking, it’s still a grave sin to renounce your faith, even if by doing so you get to save the lives of others. It’s still a sin to not do anything, when you have the power to do something, to save the lives of other people, if you decide to keep your faith instead; in effect here, you’re not just deciding to be a martyr, but you’re also deciding for other people that they will also be martyrs when perhaps such is far from their minds.  Choosing between the lesser evil is, ultimately, still choosing evil.

Obviously, the “hard way” of martyrdom isn’t fair at all, and it’s not surprising to find yourself questioning God’s sense of justice in this scenario. I think it’s worth remembering that Jesus is the Just Judge – He’s NOT the sadistic judge! His sense of justice is still present; I won’t pretend to know and I won’t speculate how He will make the call in this scenario. But what I do know, in faith, is that Jesus’ sense of compassion is also always present, and more than likely so in this particular situation. At the end of the day, what’s important for God is that you do what you do out of great love for Him and the people He loves.

For what it’s worth, although it’s still a sin to give up the faith, the greater evil and hence the greater sin is with the one that subjects you to a situation where you’re forced to sin. Greater accountability rests with those who create unjust social structures that force people to do evil because doing what’s good is condemned.

It’s better to be condemned by the world for doing the right thing and being yourself, even if that means being very different and at odds with the culture to the point of suffering for it, than to be celebrated for doing evil and conforming to worldly standards and expectations. At the end of the day, the only thing that will really matter is God’s judgment on your actions, because whatever you do or fail to do in this world is between Him and you.

God’s Silence

I believe in the sun even if it isn’t shining. I believe in love even when I am alone. I believe in God even when He is silent. – Anonymous World War II refugee

The most distressing thing you can hear is to not hear anything at all from God when you’re right in the middle of Hell.

It’s easy to say that you’re never alone because God is always with us, but in practice it’s utterly difficult to believe that when you need Him to intervene with an evil that’s happening – and especially if it’s happening to you – but you don’t see Him do anything to stop it. Feeling all alone and abandoned, it’s easier to cry out at the top of your lungs that “God is nowhere!”

Despite the seeming silence, God is still with us up to this day and age because He wants to be intimately involved in our lives, if we let Him. Because He is God, He literally has the power to stop evil in this world. If He doesn’t then it doesn’t mean it’s His fault. Remember that His ways our not our ways; He has a purpose in allowing bad things to happen that will ultimately work out to our best interest. Besides, He finds ways to give us good things also, sometimes despite ourselves.

In the midst of evil, God is facing the trials and tragedies of life by our side. In moments of despair it does feel like we’re all alone, but that’s not true. He will never leave us, most especially in the lowest points and saddest moments of our lives. Some good will come out of this, even if we never find out or really understand it during our lifetime. And, really, He doesn’t even expect us to understand His will; it’s enough to know that whatever trials He allows will be for our good, in time.

No student is greater than his Teacher. If we think God is so quiet in the company of so much evil, then we’re not alone: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Even Jesus, in His humanity, experienced this same thing (Matthew 27:46). But He had to die because love is sacrificial in nature. Dying for us was the best proof that the Father could show us how much He loved us, even if there was an easier way for Him to do so. Compared to previous times, the Father stayed silent when Jesus cried out to Him to show that He wouldn’t intervene in what had to happen, because out of love for us, He knows His Son’s death for the atonement of our sins had to happen. If there’s ever any doubt that good can somehow come out of this, then look no further than Jesus’ Passion and death on the Cross.

Even in our darkest hours, and most especially during such, He’s actually still there. Being a follower of Christ doesn’t necessarily mean that we will escape all the pain in this world, for such isn’t necessarily part of His plan. However what being a follower means is we’re not facing the trials of life alone. And with all the faith we can muster, we can cry out in a loud voice that, instead of saying “God is nowhere!” we say instead “God is now-HERE!”

On a side-note: We cannot expect God to be selectively “noisy.” We can’t expect Him to intervene when someone is doing evil but then stay out of our way when we ourselves are doing something evil. Ultimately this matter also goes down to God’s continuing respect for His gift of free will to us. And God was, is, and will always be consistent.

Man of Weak Faith

I can most relate to that one character in the movie that keeps on going to Confession, because, like all of us, he has a favorite sin. All throughout the movie, he confesses the same sin. This man’s sin in particular was renouncing his faith whenever his life was in peril; he doesn’t need to be forced to do so.

The fact that he keeps on repeating the same sin again and again is not the point. The point is he acknowledges how much he needs Jesus in his life, and despite his weakness, always makes the effort to try and come back. I’m not disappointed that he kept on committing the same sin; I actually admire that he kept on coming back and was genuinely sincere in all his attempts to reform his life. If I can appreciate that, then for sure God appreciates that, too (Luke 15:7). Each time he came back, it became a testimony of God’s infinite mercy and love for His children.

I’m a man of weak faith. I’d like to think that I’ve taken steps over the years to try and grow my trust and confidence in our Lord; I constantly pray for the grace to do so. My faith is not tested with my life, which is a good thing of course, but it’s tested everyday by how much effort I’m willing to exert to be obedient to God’s commands of love. In this day and age, this is the opportunity for people like me to shine as martyrs for Jesus.

But should the terrible day come when I need to pay for my faith with my life, or if absolutely necessary, also with the lives of other people, I honestly don’t know if I can do it. By my own power, for sure nothing will happen. And so on that day, I will look to God, and despite His seeming silence, and with what little faith I can muster, put my hope and trust in Him that He will give me the grace to do what He wants me to do. I hope it never does, but should the terrible day come, I know that this is what He’ll want me to do.

Jesus, I trust in You!

[Editorial note: I also incorporated what I learned from a few Homilies. One of the priests of my parish talked about God being “nowhere” when he eventually realized that He is always “now-here.” A guest priest that celebrated Mass in another parish talked about the Father’s silence during the Passion as an example of why He didn’t intervene. I’m grateful I actually paid attention to what the priests were saying since such have also informed my insights on the matter.]

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Categories: Religion

Measuring Your Vacation Success

April 12, 2017 Leave a comment

I wondered if there was some anecdotal measure that can be used to attempt to quantify how successful one’s vacation is. I actually thought about this before, qualitatively. Now I’m looking for something actually measurable to a certain extent; this is one way that I think might work.

Overall Principle: A vacation is successful if you have complete control of your time out from work to complete what you want to do within the budget you set for yourself.

Factor 1: Time Ownership

The point of going on a vacation is you have time for yourself. The idea is you have all of your vacation time – 100.00% – to do as you please. Any deviation from the ideal should be measured.

Parameters:

1. The base unit of measuring time is one hour.
2. The start date of your vacation is counted at 12:00:00 a.m. of the day you say your break will start.
3. The end date of your vacation is up to 11:59:59 p.m. of the day just before the day you say you’ll report back to work.
4. Your total vacation time is the number of hours between your start date and end date.

For example:
• If you say your vacation starts on April 7, then it starts at 12:00:00 a.m. of April 7.
• If you say you’ll return to the office on April 17, then your vacation is up to 11:59:59 p.m. of April 16.
• Your total vacation time is 216.0 hours.

If you still need to do some work then it should be at the absolute minimum needed, and nothing more.

The following are illustrative examples of what can be counted as work and hence “you’re still working;” by no means is this exhaustive as there could be other situations that can be considered work:

1. Checking work e-mail is counted as work; attending meetings would be worse.
2. Any time you spend showing up as online using your company’s messaging system is counted as work, because it opens the possibility of you getting contacted.
3. Ideally no one from the office will contact you during your vacation. However if you get a text or call, then the time spent processing such contact is counted as work.
4. Spending time inside the office premises, even if you’re literally not doing anything, is counted as work – you could / should be somewhere else during your vacation.
5. Thinking about anything related to work is counted as work – you’re supposed to detach yourself from your business, otherwise technically you’re still working.

Work time: Count the total number of hours these work-related tasks accumulate. This number of hours represents time ownership you lost because of work.

The time you have should be at your full disposal to do as you please. If you’re given non-work-related tasks that were not previously established as something you agreed to do on a regular basis, in other words you’re doing work (“chores?”) that someone else asked you to do, then that is still time taken away from you that you could have otherwise spent on what you want to do.

For example: Your friend asked a favor that you drive him to the airport. Considering traffic and the time and effort to do this task, such is time that you could have otherwise used for your own benefit.

Other work time: Count the total number of hours these non-work-related tasks accumulate. This number of hours represents time ownership you lost because of these tasks.

Computation procedure:
1. Total the work time and other work time and subtract this from your total vacation time.
2. Express the time you actually owned as a percentage of your total vacation time.

For example:
• You still got called to provide information to a colleague and that took an hour to complete.
• On another day, you had no choice but to drive your friend to the airport, and the whole effort took four hours of your time.
• At the end of your vacation, you only owned 216.0 – 1.0 – 4.0 = 211.0 hours or 97.69% of your time.

For further analysis, try also measuring your importance at work. In theory, it shouldn’t be surprising that if you’re more important at work, then there’s a tendency for you to still be asked to do some form or another of work during your vacation.

Factor 2: Task Completion

It’s important to have a plan of what you want to do during your vacation. You might have full ownership of your vacation time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve successfully used it.

Success as used in this context is defined as the ability to complete something you want to do during the time you set out for vacation.

Guidance:
1. Explicitly list down what you want to do. Either that or at least have an implicit but clear understanding of what you want to do during your vacation.
2. Be specific enough so that you can easily measure success or failure.
3. And just as important, be realistic in the goals you set.
4. Not having a plan to do anything at all should NOT be considered a waste of time – choosing to not do anything is still choosing to do something.
5. Note that it’s possible you find yourself doing more things than you originally planned to do due to opportunities and circumstances, and that’s good – it just means you made more use of your vacation time to do what you want to do.

For example:
• You target to complete reading a 1,000 page book in a span of 216.0 hours. Knowing yourself, you know this isn’t realistic. By the end of those hours, you’re not even half-way through the book. You thus fail to complete this task.
• Using the same scenario, you set a more realistic target to complete reading the first 100 pages of the book – as far as you’re concerned, that’s enough to say that you started reading it. By the end of your vacation, you can mark this task as completed.

Computation procedure:
1. Total all the tasks you set out to do during your vacation. Count those tasks you marked as completed.
2. Express the tasks you’ve been able to complete as a percentage of the total tasks you set out to do.
3. If you literally didn’t plan on doing anything at all (just sit back and watch life pass you by and what-not) then consider yourself as 100.00% on completing your tasks.

For example: You planned to do 10 things during your 216.0 hour vacation, and managed to complete all but one of them (you barely got to open the book you wanted to start reading) in the end. You’ve thus completed 90.00% of your tasks.

Factor 3: Financial Forecast

One way or another, going on vacation not surprisingly still involves spending money, and such is still something that has to be considered.

Guidance:
1. If money isn’t a problem, then automatically consider yourself as 100.00% on target.
2. If money needs to be monitored, then set a budget, and track your expenses daily against that budget.

Computation procedure:
1. At the end of your vacation, if you’ve spent less than or equal to your target budget, then consider yourself as 100.00% on target.
2. However if you went over-budget, then compute the variance of this over-budget and subtract that from 100.00%.
3. Note that getting severely over-budget can lead to negative values when finally computing how much you’ve deviated from the target.

For example:
• For your 216.0 hour vacation you allotted to budget PHP 1,000.00 for any and all expenses. However you ended up spending PHP 1,100.00 instead. You thus went (1,100 – 1,000) / 1,100 * 100 = 10.00% over-budget.
• As far as your financial forecast is concerned, you’re only 100% – 10% = 90.00% on target.

Final Assessment

Take all factors into consideration when you assess your vacation success. Depending on your priorities, assign a specific weight to each of them; obviously this can be quite arbitrary, and it really depends on your priorities, so use what makes sense to you.

As a starting point, you can assign weights to each factor as follows:
1. Time Ownership: 40.00%.
2. Task Completion: 30.00%.
3. Financial Forecast: 30.00%.

Computation procedure:
1. Multiply the percentage of each factor by the respective weight you assigned to it.
2. Get the total of the resulting percentages to get your final percentage assessment of your vacation success.

For example:
• Throughout your 216.0 hour vacation, you only owned 97.69% of that time. (From your measurement of work importance, you happen to be just important enough to be asked a few things here and there hence some work was still expected from you.) The weight this carries is 97.69% * 40.00% = 39.07%.
• You only completed 90.00% of the tasks you planned. The weight this carries is 90.00% * 30.00% = 27.00%.
• You went over-budget by 10.00%, hence you were only able to achieve 90.00% of your targeted budget. The weight this carries is 90.00% * 30.00% = 27.00%.
• Your total vacation success metric is 39.07% + 27.00% + 27.00% = 93.07%.

Guidance:
1. In this day and age, a perfect vacation probably doesn’t exist, but if it did, then it would rate at 100.00% based on the anecdotal measurements defined here.
2. I think it’s safe to say that a rating of 90.00% and above means your vacation was “realistically good.”
3. A rating between 70.00% – 90.00% is still okay, all things considered, but for sure it “could have been better.”
4. Anything below 70.00% can be considered “poor” / “better than nothing since it was still something” (obviously not as satisfying).  And rating 50.00% and below can mean the vacation was a failure / disaster.

At the end of the day, it’s important that you live the life you want to live. And this isn’t just during time away from work, but every moment of time our good Lord grants to you. You should always make the time for what’s important.  Having a successful vacation is one of those moments you deserve to fully enjoy.

Categories: Ideas and Philosophy