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Be always on guard

Fr. Roy Cimagala .

THAT’S simply because our life will always be in some warfare. And it is not so much in the outside or the visible world as in the inside or the invisible aspects of our life. Our war will be more in our mind, heart and soul, in our thoughts, desires, intentions, memory, imagination, feelings and passions. We need to be more aware of this reality.

The Book of Job already warned us about it. “The life of man upon earth is a warfare.” (7,1) We should not take things for granted. We have to learn the art of spiritual warfare which should be a continuing project for all of us, since the battlefronts of this warfare will always be changing.

We have to remember that we are ranged against very powerful enemies, first among whom are our very own selves, our weakened flesh that can be the most treacherous friend we can have. It is afflicted with a three-fold concupiscence: the concupiscence of the flesh, that of the eyes and the pride of life.

Then we have the world that has absorbed the effects of our sinfulness. As a consequence, it now has structures and systems of evil working with great power and influence. Think, for example, of the plague of pornography, corruption and deception, and of the so-called culture of death that now legalizes and normalizes anomalies like abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, etc.

And then we have the devil himself, a pure spirit full of malice and cunning, capable of organizing a very sophisticated conspiracy to trip us in our way to our life eternal in heaven. We should always be wary of him, since he is always hounding us, made worse by the fact that he knows how to make his presence not felt by us. He is good in disguising.

Remember St. Paul’s warning: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph 6,12)

We should not be naïve. Christ himself told us: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Mt 10,16) The combination between serpentine shrewdness and dove-like innocence may be tricky, but with God, we can achieve it. There is no doubt about that.

We cannot overemphasize the need for extreme vigilance. This is not paranoia, but rather a basic norm of prudence. We have to do some intelligence work to detect as early as possible any oncoming danger and to nip it in the bud. We have to learn how to say No to temptations and to quell a raging urge, a strong impulse to fall into them. In this regard, we have to really be mean and lean, in perfect shape and fit for battle.

We also have to know how to closely monitor the progress of this warfare of ours, while keeping a stable focus of the ultimate destination we are aiming at. There, for sure, will be many decoys meant to mislead and confuse us. There will be false apostles and prophets and the devil himself can take on the form of an angel of light. (cfr 2 Cor 11,13) We have to learn how to smell them from afar.

For all this, we really need to be vitally identified with Christ as much as possible, through prayers, recourse of the sacraments, development of virtues, the waging of the ascetical struggle, etc.

We have to learn to be on guard always, never letting our guard down even while resting or having some fun. Remember Christ saying: “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds on watch when he returns… Even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night and finds them alert, those servants will be blessed…” (Lk 12,37-38)

***

The Only Great Tragedy. I was struck by a quotation used in Pope Francis’ “Gaudete et exsultate,” which is about the call to holiness in today’s world. He quoted a French essayist, Leon Bloy, who said, “the only great tragedy in life is not to become a saint.” (GE 34)

I could not agree more with it. After all, to be holy, to be a saint is really what all of us are meant for. And that’s because God made us to be such. He created us in his image and likeness. Failing to become a saint is like failing in everything in our life, no matter how successful we may be in the other departments of our life.

I remember a pertinent anecdote involving Opus Dei founder, St. Josemaria Escriva, and some of his spiritual children who were assigned to put up the University of Navarre in Spain. When these Opus Dei faithful finally managed to put up the university, they were happy and proud to present it to the founder.

The founder was obviously happy, but he told them that he did not simply tell them to put up the university, but rather to become a saint by putting up the university.

We should not forget the proper priorities in our life, avoiding getting confused and lost in the technicalities of our earthly sojourn. St. Paul said it clearly when he said: “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” (1 Thes 4,3)

And Christ himself said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Mt 6,33) He reiterated this point a number of times as when he said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.” (Mt 5,48)

When evaluating our performance and the quality of our work, we have to see to it that the constant and ultimate criterion should be whether our work has led us to sanctity, to a growth in our love for God and for others, which is the essence of holiness.

There should at least be the awareness that we are becoming a better person every time we finish a job, that we are growing in the different virtues, that we are getting closer to God and to everyone else.

Thus, when we start planning and organizing our tasks, we should see to it that the primary principle and motive to drive us is our response to the call to holiness that God is issuing for all of us. We should use the pertinent spiritual and supernatural means as well as the human devices to meet this need.

We should be careful not to get stuck in the secondary and subordinate motives for working as when we would be more interested in getting the job done, or in earning some money, etc. All these latter motives have their legitimate value, but only as support and tools to the primary motive of seeking sanctity, of doing things out of love for God and others.

Looking at the world today, we can readily realize that a lot still need to be done to make holiness the be-all and end-all of our life. For sure, a lot of catechesis is needed, a lot of formation as well, so that everyone would be reassured that this goal of sanctity is objectively for all of us and that it is achievable with God’s grace and our effort.

We have to debunk the belief that some people have that regards holiness as optional, or that it is only meant for some people who are considered to be specially gifted, etc.

We have to know how to neutralize if not convert the many secularizing elements in today’s world into occasions and instruments for our sanctification. We certainly have to consider the temper of the times and learn how to humanize and Christianize it.

 

E-mail: roycimagala@gmail.com

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