Tuesday, July 31, 2007


By Joel E. Ferraris

Painted on top of layers of newspaper daily headlines and stories that I directly transferred from old newspaper to the canvas surface are bits and pieces of images that represent the Christian religion. These antique-looking remnants symbolize the gradual weakening and continued decline of religion and spirituality as they float in the midst of fleeting stories of social, political, economic and even religious turmoil. These juxtapositions of strong currents of life's pressure are real threats that could even shake the strongly faithful at times.

As drug addiction, among other abuses and tools of decadence, threatens not only the youth but even professionals in my country and elsewhere, with divorce taking its toll on family values and morality and where terrorism tops the list of all human excesses there seem to be no end to these sources of fear, frustration, despair and anxiety. The uncertain future now looks grim to the spiritually blind even more especially when global warming comes into the picture and makes these concerns more heated. And, in the course of people's struggle for survival, they tend to bring that feeling of hatred against their fellowmen into their graves as fear about the renewed nuclear arms race are fueled by distrust among powerful countries.

But humanity in general and individuals in particular are not without any hope and bright future. Created by Almighty God the Father and equipped with a manual on how to live in righteousness, people have a chance to walk a straight path. Deprived of genuine peace from a world under the control of the evil one, the faithful is guaranteed with the real peace that Lord Jesus Christ has promised. The question that confronts us, however, how do we achieve that and who will teach us?

History is not without a list of men gone mad even though they claim to believe in God. Many people still do that nowadays, either blinded by false teachings or themselves twisting religion for their selfish agenda. And in their secret brotherhood's codes of conducts the word God is sometimes reduced to a mere decoration to give their group a good image.

There are lots of work to be done to help enlighten people spiritually. With the news of dwindling number of priests to take this responsibility, the laity is given the task to take up their crosses and see to it that the young will be molded to become good and responsible adults. This will only be possible in the right environment that will start in the family as a basic unit of society founded on strong spiritual foundation.

There is really a need for spiritual renewal and, for people to effect such changes, there is a need to re-study and re-examine deeply one's religion and to correct the mistakes of the past. Moreover, the Christianity that the faithful need to strive for must be the kind that is not shallow. They need to dig deeper into its real essence, examine and understand the meaning of the unleavened bread and remember God the Father Almighty's standard in selecting His chosen people, as in the case of how he selected King David for example.

In my case I was humbled by Gandhi's non-violence, by the Amish forgiveness that shamed the whole world and the Philippines' Gawad Kalinga that is now being embraced by our Muslim brothers in Mindanao. To me these role models are examples of "walking the talk", of living the Lord Jesus Christ's Gospels that has been preached for so many centuries. But above all these I am focusing my mind to the real role model of them all - Lord Jesus Christ.

It is widely accepted, and most of all biblically supported, that He is the model of obedience to His Father, our God Almighty. He has set an example for us to emulate so that we, too, could enter the kingdom of heaven. And as Christians, while we are still here on earth awaiting for the life eternal, we need to strive hard and endure till the end as true Christians and obedient followers of God the Father Almighty.

Through the years in my life as an artist I had witnessed a lot of things that made me question the ways of this world. I witnessed friends suffer because of their own stupidity and stubbornness. Lucky I am that I prayed one night and asked God Almighty to help me out of my personal quagmire. And, miraculously, in less than a month's time I found His healing hand. I was cured spiritually after I was baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1988 in Pasig in the Philippines, turned away completely from my dark life and was able to forgive my enemies. It seems that everything was put in place when I realized that the future of my marriage and the molding of our children are being guided by the Words of God the Father Almighty in the Holy Bible.

As religious practices among peoples of this world vary, others believe in saints as their role models of faithfulness and obedience to God the Father Almighty. But all these saints have one role model of total obedience and love for God the Father Almighty and that is Lord Jesus Christ. Mother Theresa, the Amish, and the movement called Gawad Kalinga believe in Him and even Gandhi and the Muslims recognized Him.

So to me, especially nowadays in my country, people need to emulate the real role model and listen to His Gospels and obey His Commandments rather than pray or devote themselves to saints represented by lifeless statues. They should instead pray to God the Father Almighty in the name of His Son Lord Jesus Christ and strive to become holy people themselves and manifest the miracle of love, kindness, mercy and forgiveness from God the Father Almighty to their neighbors. They need to follow the teachings of Lord Jesus Christ about love and must focus their devotion to God the Father Almighty, like what Lord Jesus Christ did, instead of going through a lot of religious practices, that are oftentimes blended with superstition and quackery, that serve as distractions that mislead their direction away from real personal holiness and away from focusing their hearts and minds to God the Father Almighty, the One that we need to adore, obey and love above the rest.

I have arrived at this perception and conclusion because in my country there are lots of saints and even Our Ladies (of this and that), co-mingling with superstition, where people's devotion seems to reveal their "deep" religiosity. But the fact that the rising crime and the perpetuation of corruption and violence plus the increasing immorality and decades of poverty seem to reveal the lack of true and deeper Christian spirituality in people.

Even the need for groups like Couples For Christ and all those Christian Life Programs expose the truth that people's usual practice of attending Sunday masses cannot guarantee that the Words of God the Father Almighty had firmly found their place in people's hearts and minds because the sermons of priests are ignored and where men are smoking outside churches during homilies. And to aggravate the situation more, the ongoing conflicts among Christian sects on who has the truth and the fullness of the truth, while increasingly threatened by secularism, has proven to be a big obstacle for people to practice real and true Christianity where the Two Commandments of Lord Jesus Christ are the main foundation.

That's precisely the reason why I painted these images in the manner that they appear to be mere silhouettes and empty images of people. I want to let people think why these saint-like figures are void and, with this accompanying written explanation, to let them understand that it is time for them to act and live according to the teachings of Lord Jesus Christ as written in the Holy Bible.

These artpieces are not meant to be worshipped or even venerated but are purposely made to serve as a mirror for people as they look not towards the artpiece but rather deep inside themselves whether they have a certain level of holiness or not. And if they are holy, whether they have to kneel down in front of lifeless, cold statues of saints made by sinful hands. And to those who have awakened and are spiritually enlightened it is therefore their duty to let others understand that these images are abhorrent in the eyes of God the Father Almighty and that they should instead love their neighbors as an expression of their love for God the Father Almighty by educating them about Him.
People also need to look back during the time of King Hezekias where the brazen serpent made by Moses was finally destroyed. It was because of man's nature of being weak. That instead of looking deeply why that symbol was designed, they venerated it. That instead of having strong faith and obedience in our Creator, they will have the tendency to stumble along the way and fall short of being true believers by their recurring sinful acts and continued spiritual ignorance amid a lot of complaining as a result of impatience in waiting for God the Father's blessing to come in His own perfect time.
They also need to look back at that time when Moses angrily rebuked the Israelites for using that golden calf when in fact they made that to represent and worship God the Father Almighty. They need to understand why handgraven images made from matter are abhorrent to the eyes of an unseen and infinite God the Father Almighty.
And people also need to understand too that it is still the fruits of the Holy Spirit, if they are really temples of the Holy Spirit, that will prove their holiness by the way they act, think, speak and being not happy with evil. It is how they tolerate all sorts of sinfulness that will become a yardstick to reveal the lack of holiness in their lives and how spiritually ignorant they are.

Nothing is impossible to God the Father Almighty. If He could create from nothing surely He could provide for our needs especially in this growing age of anxiety and uncertainty. In this world surrounded by man's wickedness and all iniquities the only thing of do is to seek the connection between God the Father Almighty and man and to fill up these job vacancies as servants of our Almighty God and Father and work for His glory and for our neighbors well-being. (Joel E. Ferraris)