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Wrath of our God

I will not comment on the book written by the priest, Father Raul J. Bonoan, S.J. titled, The Rizal-Pastells Correspondence, the Hitherto Unpublished Letters of Jose Rizal and Portions of Fr. Pablo Pastells Fourth Letter and Translation of the Correspondence, together with a Historical Background and Theological Critique. I have read it, yes, and I value it because of the translations of Rizal’s letters, which articulate his thoughts on God. This correspondence began because Pastells was lamenting that Rizal had turned Mason and was trying to convert him back to Catholicism. 

But I will quote from Rizal’s third letter to Pastells, where he writes down his beliefs in God. I am quoting him precisely, and copying the capitalization but shortening somewhat because I cannot exceed 1,000 words in my column. Here is Rizal’s description of who his God is and surprisingly enough it mirrors who my God is:

Through reasoning and by necessity, rather than faith, do I firmly believe in the existence of a creative Being. Who is he? I do not know. What human sounds, what accents are we to use in pronouncing the name of this Being whose works overwhelm the imagination? Can anyone give him an adequate name. . . We call him Dios but this only comes from the Latin deus and ultimately from the Greek Zeus. What kind of being is he? I would attribute to him, to an infinite degree, all the beautiful and holy qualities my mind can think of, but the fear of my ignorance constrains me. . . Even so I venture to think of him as infinitely wise, mighty, good. . . when I behold the wonders of his works, the order that reigns over the universe, the magnificence and expanse of creation, and the goodness that shines in all. . .The thought of him humbles me and sends my mind reeling; and whenever my reason rises to reach this Being, who created planets, suns, worlds and galaxies without number, it falls back stunned, puzzled and crushed. Fear overcomes me and I rather remain silent. . .

Filled by this vague but irresistible sentiment in face of the inconceivable, the superhuman, the infinite, I leave this study to brighter intelligences and hold in abeyance what the religions have to say. Unable to pass judgment on what surpasses my powers, I settle for studying God in his creatures like myself and in the voice of my conscience, which only can have come from him. I strive to read and find his will in all the surrounds me and in the mysterious sentiment speaking from within me, which I strive to purify above all else. The various religions claim to have God’s will condensed and written in books and dogmas; but apart from the many contradictions, conflicting interpretations of words and many interpretations of words and many obscure and untenable points I find in them, my conscience, my reason cannot admit that he, who like a wise father had provided his creatures with everything necessary for this life, proceeded to bury what was necessary for eternal life in the obscurities of language unknown to the rest of the world and hide it behind metaphors and deeds that go against the very laws of nature. . .

But I do not mean by this that I completely disregard what the sacred books, religious precepts and religious dogmas have to say. On the contrary these books are, in the final analysis, the insights of men and whole generations put down in writing. . . When there arises a conflict among them, I decide in favor of that which most conforms with nature’s law because for me nature is the only divine book of unquestionable legitimacy, the sole manifestation of the Creator that we have here in this life – clear, perennial, living, powerful, capable of overcoming our blunders and errors, incorruptible, one that cannot play false in spite of human caprice, with its laws constant and unchangeable in all places and for all times.

When I read this, I cannot help but be awed. That is a description of my God too. I too believe in the laws of nature and how helpless we are against nature’s wrath. 

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Could you believe that Manila Bay would cough up more than 200 trucks of trash that we thoughtlessly rammed down her throat over the years? Well, Nature put her back on our laps and I hope made us consider how we throw our trash away, what we can do to prevent this sort of thing happening ever again. How do we educate our people to take care of their surroundings? Drive around the backstreets of the financial district in Makati and you see, especially in the government buildings, the clutter in their back rooms, boxes piled one on top of the other, half-open stained curtains, very untidy. But nobody cares.

How many people died in floods and landslides? There is a serious flood and yet people allow their children to swim — and drown — in filthy waters. There are serious floods and yet people still build their shanties close to the river. You cannot tell them not to build there. You send them clothes, relief goods, all sorts of things but you know they will still return to their shanties by the river. Someone has to stop them but who?

Our — Rizal’s God and mine — has been trying to talk to them for the longest time, claiming some members of their families. But they shrug their shoulders and go on. Who teaches them to value their lives? Who teaches them anything? Who will save them?

I think the lesson that needs to be learned is we have to save ourselves. We have to think of our families and our children and teach them the value of their lives and how to take care of themselves. Otherwise, more and more of us will die during natural disasters as our God tries so hard to get His lessons learned.

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