Friday, April 07, 2006

Tempt Me

(In time for Lent, here's a reprint of my latest column from the opinion page of Sun.Star Cebu)

UPTOWN, JUST a bell’s ring and a sermon away from the Sacred Heart Church and the Iglesia ni Cristo, is a nightspot downright definite about its business. Club Temptation, entices its neon sign flaunting a silhouette of a naked woman.

Not that there’s something off tangent about a honky-tonk hole in the wall existing smack where droves of devotees gather to celebrate their faith. Goodness, after all, doesn’t define itself from an immaculate void. Or, a background of pure whiteness— the absence of color— against which the screaming streaks of black or red would be more vivid.

No happenstance in this Holy Week, therefore, is the courage and humility to embrace our imperfections and our indiscretions— these birthright of sin that shine in spite of God’s blueprints for us to be “divinities in disguise.” To welcome our badness home, as the poet Stephen Dobyns affirms. Only then can one shove it out the window, true. Inasmuch as Christ himself receive and gather us all in a gesture of openness, his outstretched hands nailed on the cross, issue an open invitation to sinners or saint-wannabes – a take-it-or-leave-it offer for either eternal salvation or damnation.

Redemption, that’s one thing that looms like a fist at the moon. Or, a pie in the sky over a fallen planet where politicians, terrorists, power-famished scientists and fame-obsessed celebrities play god. As intolerance and inequity make the world go round even on the brink of a nuclear meltdown and the woebegone weather all over the globe in the aftermath of the greenhouse effect, the longing gaze for deliverance remains as steadfast as the search for the Holy Grail.

While evil is inescapable, perhaps no temptation is more potent in its spell than the seduction to shrug off and get swayed into the ease of cynicism. No scruple, no moral muscle to flex in the face of despair.

Indeed, as politicians and policy-makers (with 30 pieces of silver swallowed all the way down their sphincters) remain blessed with the survival skills of rats and vultures, betrayals of all society’s cherished values will continue to gnaw at the edges of our belief in goodness, in sweetness and light.

Regarding the night as a constant of the human condition, William Stafford waxes mystical. “The darkness around is deep,” he warns. Then again, echoing another poet’s oft-stated exhortation to “rage, rage against the dying of the light,” Stafford is obdurate about an objective of vigilance. “For it is important,” he intones, “that awake people be awake.” Or else, “a pattern that others made may prevail in the world/ And following the wrong god home we may miss our star.”

Either that, or the wonder of it all underscored against all odds by this testament of faith: “Dying He destroyed our death…”

Today, in the shadow of the crucifixion, a more lasting temptation endures and persists to tease the imagination. Pray tell what else can beat the inevitability of an Easter Sunday?


TIMELY for Holy Week and beyond, here's something fished out of the Web-- a few morsels of reminders more than enough to dredge up deeper hungers and have a spiritual burp:

1) Give God what's right-- not what's left.
2) Man's way leads to a hopeless end-- God's way leads to an endless hope.
3) A lot of kneeling will keep you in good standing.
4) He who kneels before God can stand before anyone.
5) In the sentence of life, the devil may be a comma-- but never let him be the period.
6) Don't put a question mark where God puts a period.
7) Are you wrinkled with burden? Come to the church for a face-lift.
8) When praying, don't give God instructions-- just report for duty.
9) Don't wait for six strong men to take you to church.
10) We don't change God's message-- His message changes us.
11) The church is prayer-conditioned.
12) When God ordains, He sustains.
13) Warning: Exposure to the Son may prevent burning.
14) Plan ahead-- It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark
15) Most people want to serve God, but only in an advisory position.
16) Suffering from truth decay? Brush up on your Bible.
17) Exercise daily-- walk with the Lord.
18) Never give the devil a ride-- he will always want to drive.
19) Nothing else ruins the truth like stretching it.
20) Compassion is difficult to give away because it keeps coming back.
21) He who angers you controls you.
22) Worry is the darkroom in which negatives can develop.
23) Give Satan an inch & he'll be a ruler.
24) Be ye fishers of men-- you catch them & He'll clean them.
25) God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
26) Read the Bible-- It will scare the hell out of you.


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