Fr. Roy Cimagala .
IN our relationships, given all the differences we have among ourselves, we need to learn the art of leveling down and leveling up. We have to learn how to adapt ourselves to how each one is, so a good connection can be established without compromising what is essential in our life and dignity as a person and child of God.
And the perfect model for this is none other than Christ himself, who leveled down from his divinity to our humanity in order to level up our humanity to his divinity. So, obviously, for us to know how to level down and level up in our relationships, we need to be vitally identified with Christ.
Consider how Christ leveled himself down to be with us.
St. Paul described it so vividly when he said: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his advantage.
“Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross.” (Phil 2,5-8)
Christ did all this out of his love for us who are meant to be his image and likeness. Yes, Christ wants us to be like him—in fact, to be “another Christ,” with the same mind and heart, and sharing the same life.
Christ identifies himself with us, assuming not only our nature but also the consequences of sin, including death, without committing sin at all. He does this so we can also have a way of identifying ourselves with God.
We can just imagine what practical consequences can flow from this truth of our faith! Like Christ, we need to be humble always. We have to be ready to suffer, bearing all the inconveniences of having to adapt to everyone to such an extent that as St. Paul would put it, we can be “all things to all men.” (1 Cor 9,22)
Like Christ, we have to learn how to be flexible and creative, trying to seek the proper wavelength to be able to communicate with others effectively. That is why Christ used parables to transmit very mysterious and supernatural truths to the people.
So we have to know how to deal with all kinds of people—intellectuals and laborers, rich and poor, young and old, the geniuses and the idiots, the pious and the worldly, the saintly and the sinners, the straight, the gays and whatever, etc. We can have the heart of Christ that is universal in the scope of his concern.
As Pope Francis once said, if we really want to be good shepherds of everyone, we should not mind acquiring the smell of the sheep, unafraid to get dirty with them without compromising the essential.
And like Christ, we have to learn how to be consistently obedient to the will of God while adapting ourselves to everyone. We have to learn how not to get confused and lost in the process. We have to be clear about what the real and ultimate purpose is in our relationships with everyone.
Thus, we really need to pray and make sacrifices, and have recourse to the sacraments, especially Confession and the Holy Eucharist, continually develop virtues, etc., so that our identification of Christ becomes tighter and tighter.
It is in this way that we can sort of loosen up and manage to make the necessary changes and adaptations to be with both God and men as they are. It is in this way that we can let go of our earthly attachments that prevent us from adapting ourselves with everyone.
Christ is God’s word to us. We need to understand that God has fully revealed himself to us in Christ. Christ is the Son of the God, the very Word of God, who became man precisely to show us who God is and how we are related to him.
Our need to know and love God is fully met in Christ. As man, Christ left his words to us so that we can connect ourselves with God. Christ’s words therefore play a very important role in our life.
To the question as to how our attitude should be toward the words of Christ, I would say that basically it should be the same attitude we ought to have toward Christ himself, toward God himself.
And the reason is this—since Christ is God and as God, who is absolute simplicity, his words are fully identified with his being, then reading or listening to the word of Christ is like meeting Christ himself, is like listening to God himself.
Thus, St. Jerome once said that “ignorance of the Scripture is ignorance of Jesus.” May we always have the eagerness to know more about the word of God contained in Sacred Scripture. May we never treat God’s words in the Scripture as another piece of literature that can have great but limited value.
We have to remember that the primary purpose of God’s word is to bring us back to God. And so more than just giving us some helpful earthly knowledge, it gives us the ultimate spiritual knowledge we need to return to God. This character of God’s word is described in the following words in the Letter to the Hebrews: “For the word of God is living and effectual, and more piercing than any two edged sword, and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (4,12)
It would be good if we develop the daily habit of reading and meditating on the gospel. If done with faith and devotion, for sure such practice will give us ever new insights into the things of God and our real duties of the moment.
Being a living word, the gospel will always tell us what we have to do at any given moment while giving us also a global picture of the over-all purpose of our life and how we can pursue it.
Thus, every time we read the Gospel, we have to understand by our faith that we are engaging our Lord in an actual and living way. We are listening to him, and somehow seeing him. We can use our imagination to make ourselves as one more character in any scene depicted by the Gospel.
For this, we need to look for the appropriate time and place. We have to be wary of our tendency to be dominated by a lifestyle of activism and pragmatism that would blunt our need for recollection and immersion in the life of Christ.
The drama of Christ’s life here on earth has to continue in our own life. Thus, we need to continually conform our mind and heart to the Gospel, an affair that demands everything from us.
Our Catechism tells us that “We must continue to accomplish in ourselves the stages of Jesus’ life and his mysteries and often to beg him to perfect and realize them in us and in his whole Church” (521)
Thus, we should realize that all of us have the duty to spread the gospel to all nations, as Christ himself told his apostles: “Go, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them… And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Mt 28,19-20)
Let’s hope that we get the spirit and the urgency with which Christ spoke those words.