Fr. Roy Cimagala .
THAT’S what God has practically given us. He has created us to be his image and likeness. And he has given us everything to reach that goal—our intelligence, will and his powerful grace, and everything else that is for our own good.
In a sense, his precious project with us is well funded. Now it is up to us to write whatever amount we are going to put on that check by way of our free correspondence to his will for us.
Whatever amount we write there, it will always be honored.
This is a truth of our Christian faith that we have to be most aware of. Besides, even if along the way, we bumble and commit all sorts of mistakes and blunders, God knows what to do with them, deriving something good from them. It’s a win-win proposition. But it is also true that in spite of this great privilege, we can choose to lose.
We need to be more aware that our life here on earth is a matter of how much we correspond to God’s will and ways. It is a matter of giving ourselves to him, and because of him then also to the others. It’s a matter of losing ourselves in order to win him, to become like him as he wants us to be.
That is why Christ has been consistent in saying that we need to deny ourselves, carry his cross and follow him. (cfr. Mt 16,24) More vividly, he said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14,26)
We have to lose our fear of losing ourselves if only to have God, to be with God, and to be like God as he wants us to be.
This might sound like an insane proposition if considered in human terms. But God assures us that what we seem to lose would be gained back many times over.
“No one,” he said, “who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions, and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mk 10, 29-30)
We need to have the conviction that it is all worthwhile to give up everything for God. We should never be afraid because he will take care of everything. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” Christ said. (Mt 6,33)
Ours is simply to correspond to his will as fully as we can, imitating the example of Christ, our way, truth and life, who gave up everything, including his life, to do his Father’s will to save us. And that giving up led to the resurrection.
Like Christ, we should correspond to God’s will even to the most extreme of conditions. St. Paul, another good example of how one should very generously correspond to God’s will, gives us an idea of the extent to which we should be willing to correspond to God’s will.
“I have worked much harder,” he said, “been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move…” (2 Cor 11,23-26)
We need to train ourselves to give ourselves to God more and more, even if it is slow especially at the beginning and in small degrees. As long as it is steadily done, we can end up writing a big amount on the blank check God gives us.
Humility, grace, love. We need to be humble to attract and receive God’s grace that would enable us to do what we cannot do on our own—to be able to love everyone, including our enemies. Christ has told us, nay, commanded us to love our enemies, and that is just impossible for us to do unless we have God’s grace.
But the grace of God, which is always made available, cannot enter into our heart and would have no effect in us unless we humble ourselves, denying ourselves of our own likes and preferences and willing to carry the cross of Christ, which is the cross that signifies everything that we do not want and also all the sins of man.
It is humility that is the gateway for God’s grace and Christ himself to enter into our lives and empowering us to do what God himself, who is all love, does. Humility involves a certain giving up, a certain dying that actually gives rise to a better life, just like a seed has to die before it bears fruits.
Remember what Christ said about this point. “Truly, truly, I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (Jn 12,24) And he continued: “Whoever loves his life will lose it, but whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life…” (12,24)
How important it really is to learn how to be humble, unafraid of the many inconveniences it would surely involve! To humble oneself is actually never an act of cowardice nor the misfortune of a defeat. On the contrary, it requires a lot of courage to leave behind the nest of our comfort in order to fly to far distances, pursuing nothing less than heaven. And success and victory is assured, since Christ promised it. We should just have faith in Christ.
Humility is emptying ourselves to fill ourselves with nothing less than God himself, of whom we are supposed to be his image and likeness. Humility enables us to receive grace, and with grace we are enabled, in spite of our weaknesses and differences and conflicts among ourselves, to love everyone.
When we humble ourselves, we would reflect God’s own self-emptying as described by St. Paul: “He, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.” (Phil 2,6-8)
We have to start training ourselves to have this attitude and outlook in life. This is the sure way to be like Christ and to be able to love the way Christ loved all of us, both sinners and saints.
We need to examine ourselves to see if indeed we are ready and eager to follow this example of Christ. We need to drive away any trace of pride, vanity and conceit from our thoughts and desires.
We should regard ourselves merely as instruments, tools, or as a rug for others to step on softly in life. This is not self-degradation, but an assertion of our true dignity as image and likeness of God, children of his. This is what it means to be ‘another Christ,’ who is our way, truth and life.
Everyday, we need to make some kind of plan and strategy to turn this ideal into a concrete reality. Indeed, if we have a mind to follow Christ, we actually have more than enough possibilities everyday to do so. We do not need special occasions for this possibility to take place.
Humbling ourselves truly enables us to receive God’s grace and to love all!