Fr. Roy Cimagala .
WE need to see to it that we develop a real hunger and thirst for God to such an extent that we would really feel the corresponding urges. Our yearning for God should not just be a spiritual or intellectual affair.
It has to be felt, like we do when we hunger for food and thirst for water. It should filter down to our senses that would involve the corresponding organs of our body. Otherwise, that hunger and thirst for God will not last long, let alone, something that is of the abiding kind.
That is why it is good to go through some of the psalms that vividly express this need. Psalm 62 (63), for example, describes this need very well. The eleven verses that comprise it articulate how we should feel toward God. I believe it is worthwhile to go through that psalm slowly, savoring each word and the reality it expresses.
“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you / I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,” the psalm starts, giving us an idea of how we should feel in our relationship with God. We have to look for God with great desire, involving our whole being, and not just a token. In fact, our greatest desire, our strongest hunger and thirst should be for God alone. Everything else that we need will come in the proper order.
“I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you,” it continues, describing how we ought to feel when we would finally satisfy that hunger and thirst for God. Again, the satisfaction and sense of fulfillment should not just be of the spiritual kind. It has to be felt in our mouth and tongue. Again, unless we feel this satisfaction, our longing for God would not last long.
“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night, I sing in the shadow of your wings / I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.” These verses somehow tell us that our thoughts, memory and imagination should be filled with the burning desire to be with God. Otherwise, they will be filled with something else that definitely would not be proper to us.
The psalm also tells us that there should be a feeling of confidence and peace that in spite of whatever, we would be in safe hands. “Those who want to kill me will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth,” it says. This feeling of confidence and peace is important because if our desire for God does not have that effect, then it cannot be kept for long.
Again, it is good that we go through the words of the psalms to train especially our human faculties to have the proper attitude in our relation with God. Otherwise, they will just be at the mercy of passing sentiments, let alone, deceptive, disordinate and false feelings and perceptions.
Our relationship with God would be compromised even if we only manage to give some appearance of piety which many people have become good at. And nowadays, with all the many alluring distractions, it is imperative that our relationship with God is really strong. Our hunger and thirst for God should dominate all the other desires and yearnings we have in life.
As said earlier, it would be good if we can find ways to develop a deeply felt hunger and thirst for God. This, for sure, will not compromise our humanity, our naturalness, etc. On the contrary, it will purify, enrich and elevate our humanity to the supernatural life of God that is meant for us.
Yes, we are meant for God. We are nothing when we are not with God!
The Passions of Ignorance. The expression is referred to in one of the passages in the first letter of St. Peter. The complete passage says: “As obedient children, do not conform to the passions of your former ignorance…” (1,14)
Of course, as human persons, we always have some passions. These are strong emotions that drive us to action. They are a result of a combination of things—genes, a sensation of an inner need that seeks to be satisfied, etc.
We just have to make sure that while our passions can have their own constitution peculiar to each individual, they just cannot be left at their biological level. Otherwise, our passions would be akin to the passions of any animal that is by nature irrational, following a logic that is completely shaped by instincts alone and nothing beyond.
Like anything else in human life, our passions also need to be educated, grounded and oriented to what is truly proper to us.
They should not just be a product of our genes and hormones and the other chemicals and elements that come into play. They have to be under the ‘supervision’ of our reason and ultimately of our faith, hope and charity.
Thus, depending on how they are educated, they can either be good passions or bad. Yes, we should try to be passionate in our life, because that is what is ideal for us. But let’s make sure that our passions are the good ones, those that are properly inspired and directed, and that truly express our dignity as persons and ultimately as children of God, image and likeness of his.
The passions of ignorance refer to those that do not spring from our knowing and loving relation with God. They are more like the passions of the animals, except that they are fueled not only by instincts, which are what fuel animal passions, but also by the powers of our intelligence and will that go beyond what our instincts can dictate. And these powers of our intelligence and will are not inspired by faith, hope and charity.
To avoid falling into this kind of passions, we have to see to it that we inspire them with the spirit of God, which is one of love, compassion and everything else that God has shown us through Christ in the Holy Spirit.
In other words, our passions should not just be purely human passions which, as described in many instances in the Bible, are “lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” (Eph 2,3)
Again in that first letter of St. Peter, we are told about what these passions of ignorance were: “For you have spent enough time in the past carrying out the same desires as the Gentiles: living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry…” (4.3)
Our passions should be divinized. They should aim at nothing less than holiness, just like what St. Peter again said in his first letter: “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1,15)
We really need to check if the passions we have are the right ones. At the moment, it can be clearly seen that most of the passions many people show nowadays are spent on self-seeking and self-absorption. They are not oriented toward God, toward sanctification.
There is also that wrong belief that being passionate about God will compromise our humanity. Hardly anything can be farther from the truth. Being with God, in fact, perfects and completes our humanity. Without God, our Creator and heaven, we are nothing, or at best, we would turn out to be like any animal in human form. Yes, we would look and behave like humans, but we really are not if we are not with God!