Fr. Roy Cimagala .
IT’S entitled, “The Way.” It’s the first book written by Opus Dei founder, St. Josemaria Escriva, dubbed as the precursor of the lay spirituality in the Church. It’s now on its 80th year since its first edition that came out in 1939. To date, its print-run has reached close to five million copies. It has been translated from its original Spanish to some 40 languages, including Tagalog.
It contains 999 crisp and powerful spiritual considerations that the author culled from his years of preaching about the universal call to sanctity, a revolutionary if also controversial issue at that time. From the moment he founded Opus Dei in 1928, he had been talking about how everyone, especially the lay ordinary persons, are called to sanctity and apostolate in the middle of the world.
For him, the things of the world are no hindrance in developing and keeping a close relationship with God and with others.
In fact, they are the means, the occasion, the instrument and the reason to develop love for God and for others.
In one homily, he said: “You must understand now, more clearly, that God is calling you to serve him in and from the ordinary, material and secular activities of human life… Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine, hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.”
Definitely, this book has touched and fired up the lives of many people to such an extent that these people discovered a divine vocation to spread this part of the gospel all over the world.
I must say that I am one of them. Way back in the 70s, when I was still in my collegiate years in Manila, someone handed me this book. I was not actually eager to read any book other than what my teachers asked me to study. Much less was I particularly keen in reading spiritual books.
But I found it hard to refuse my friend who lent it to me. Besides, the book looked small, relatively thin. And when I opened it, I realized that it contained points that were short. So I gave it a try.
But the try turned out to be a serious, absorbing read. I must say that even from its first point, I was already ‘hit.’ And the succeeding ones reinforced it. I felt interpellated and investigated, and soon a larger picture that I have been ignoring till then loomed.
It made me discover the importance of developing a spiritual life.
At that time, I was not serious about religion though I went through the motions of attending Sunday Mass and whatever religious activities the school organized for the students. Soon, I was asking questions about how my studies and other human responsibilities were related to faith, religion, piety, etc.
I started talking to a priest and unloaded some of my questions, doubts, fears, plus, of course, my weaknesses, failures, temptations and sins. I must say I always felt lighter after each chat. I knew something was taking place and shaping up in my heart, but did not know exactly what it was and where it was leading me to.
Soon, I saw how the dots and broken lines in my life were connected. And when I was told about a possible vocation, for one reason or another, I just answered, Yes, I think I do have it. I was willing to make a drastic change of plans in my life to accommodate what I was convinced was what I was meant for.
The little book was a favourite companion of mine, not only in times of prayers but also in some random moments when I found myself idle and feeling empty. It always gave me some light, some impulse, both in good times and in bad, in my high moments as well as in my low. Up to now, it still is my favorite companion.
Don’t delay, just begin again. This is a good advice for those who are trapped in a predicament that tempts them to plunge into hopelessness and despair.
We should not delay in having to begin and begin again, no matter how many times we have to do it. We just have to move on. God is always merciful.
Whatever failures or sins we may have committed, no matter how grave and ugly they are, we just have to go to him, asking for forgiveness and he will forgive us. We just have to move on.
Remember the parable of the prodigal son. That spoiled brat finally came to his senses after suffering so much for his stupidity and decided to go back to his father even if he would not anymore be considered his son. The father welcomed him back with great joy and restored him to his dignity.
The important thing is just to come home. We may have strayed from the right way and have done it knowingly and freely, and therefore with guilt. But God is always a father. He will never reject his son.
In other words, we should just come home. It’s understandable that we can present ourselves to God with shame and fear, but let’s be reassured that God will always take us back most happy with our return.
This piece of advice is most relevant to those who suffer from some persistent weakness and misery that tempt them to fall sad and depressed. And many people nowadays find themselves in this predicament. They try their best to be and do good, but somehow one day they fall again into the same weakness or sin.
At the beginning, they manage to go back to God asking for forgiveness without difficulty. But since they seem to be falling to the same predicament in spite of their resolutions and effort, they feel that they are already hopeless, that they are already abusing God’s goodness, that they are insincere and are hypocrites.
These thoughts and reactions usually are the ones suggested by the devil who take advantage of our sadness and sorrow to inflict a greater harm on us. He will do everything to convince us that we are a hopeless case. We should be forewarned of this possibility.
There is no denying that while we are here on earth, we will always be hounded by all kinds of trials coming from our weaknesses, the allurements of the world and the wiles of the devil.
With our weaknesses alone, we already have a lot of load, and they can be very disgusting. Something in us will always push us to be and to do good, and we try to follow that urge. Yet, for one reason or another, we would just fail. This can happen even in themost unlikely moment when we are in the middle of sacred act.
We have to remind ourselves that our condition here on earth is always precarious and tenuous. We may be highly gifted, and yet we know that we have feet of clay. We should not be surprised and too worried about this condition of ours. We know that God is always around. The important thing is always to go back to him, no matter what happens. He will always receive us with open arms.
In this regard, it would be good that we develop a deep sense of sportsmanship in our spiritual and moral life. We may commit a mistake often, we may also be fouled by others many times, but we should just get up and move on with the game of life whose end is surely a victory as long as we go back to God.
We have to have that attitude of having to begin and begin again, without delay and without tiring as much possible. Let’s never pay attention to the devil’s whisper that we are already a hopeless case. We are not. We never will be, with God.