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EDITORIAL: What is religion?

THE Catholic Church has been under attack. What makes it worse is that the bombardment comes from no less than the President of the Republic of the Philippines who should be the defender of the Constitution that guarantees the freedom of and respect for each other’s religion. Worst, none from the faithful, except for the few priests, come forward to defend it, unlike in the past when the Catholic faithful offered their lives to defend it.

But what is religion? St. Thomas says that we can define religion by looking at the three classical etymologies of the Latin word religio. The three etymologies are ligare (to bind), legere (to read) and eligere (to choose).

According a favorite preacher, the Jesuit Joseph A. Galdon, religion is simply a way a man or a woman looks at life. It is the way that we experience life – not superficially, because religion is not a superficial outlook on life; not as a matter of fact, but deeply and as a call to personal commitment. Religion, he says, challenges us to look at life in a new way, to look at everything with the eyes of God. Everything is beautiful and holy if we look at it the right way.

Religion, therefore, Fr, Galdon says, challenges us to read the world correctly. We have to see not just suffering, pain and problems. Many of us see only the sin, the suffering, the difficulties. But the religious person finds God in it all. It is like the student who flunks the test who says he deserves it because he has not been studying very well. “I’ve got to do it better next time.”

Religion also challenges us to “bind” the two parts of life together. One can’t go to mass on Sunday and then live like a pagan for the rest of the week. Let’s avoid a “split-level existence” which allows us to be holy and good at home and then go along with all the graft and corruption that goes on in the office. Religion demands that life be one harmonious whole—all for God and all for love.

Finally, religion demands that we “choose” God and God’s way in everything that we do. We are constantly confronted with everything we do. We are constantly confronted with choices – some good, some bad, some indifferent. The religious person always chooses the good, hence the Jesuit motto – “All for the greater glory of God” which capsulizes this attitude of choice.

Always we must choose what is better and holier. Always we must choose the path of greater love. At the difficult moment of life, Fr. Galdon advises that we have to sit down and ask ourselves: What should I do in this situation? Where is the greater love?”

What then is a religious person? He is not necessarily someone who spends all his time in church or in prayer. He may not even be the monk in the monastery or the woman in the brown scapular who goes to mass every day. The religious person is the one who can find God in all things, the one who can read the tangled situations in our world today and find God in everything, The religious person is the one who can center his life on God and find that God is the answer to everything – both the holy and the profane. A religious person is the one who can choose clearly and simply what God wants him to do, and what God wants him to be.

Religion is not necessarily praying. Rather it is an attitude towards life – and an attitude towards love. Love that loves even your enemy.

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