Fr. Roy Cimagala .
IF we truly love one another as Christ commanded us, that is, in the way he himself has loved us, (cfr. Jn 13,34) then we haveto love everyone in such a way that we love and serve them more than what we think they deserve. That is the attitude to have.
This is how Christ himself loved each one of us. He gave himself completely to us, offering his life on the cross. And do you think we deserve that kind of love? Definitely not. In fact, we deserve the opposite—extreme punishment. But, no. Christ instead, out of love for us, bore all our sins in order to reconcile us to God from whom we came and to whom we belong.
This is the kind of love that we should aim at having. We have to stop calculating and just learn to give ourselves completely to God and to others gratuitously, without counting the cost and without expecting any return.
And that’s because we first of all received the greatest gift from God freely, and that is God himself in Christ through the Holy Spirit. We have to give ourselves to God and to others as well.
We need to be a gift also to God and to the others. “Freely you have received, freely you have to give,” Christ told the apostles. (Mt 10,8)
We have to train ourselves in this direction, and teach our heart and mind to give ourselves completely gratuitously, more than what in our calculation others deserve. This, of course, is not going to be an easy task. But we can always count on God’s grace. All that is needed is the effort to do our part.
Yes, we have to give due consideration to the requirements of justice and prudence. But let us never forget that no matter how smart we are, we can never fathom the full requirements of these ideals with our human powers alone. Only God’s grace can do that for us.
And this grace will show us that at the end of the day, we have to give ourselves gratuitously to God and others, regardless of the consequences insofar as justice and prudence are concerned.
Thus, we have to be ready to suffer, just like Christ had to suffer to save us. Imagine, Christ who is already God. He had to suffer and die just to save us. He could not solve in a human way the problems created by our sin and malice. He just bore all our sins by dying on the cross.
We have to have the same attitude of Christ with respect to loving. We have to love one another beyond what we think they deserve. Yes, we will try to look for solutions and correspond to the requirements of justice. And we will do this with the best of our efforts. But we also know that all these efforts will never give us perfect solutions to our problems and answers to our questions. We just have to learn to suffer.
Thus, Christ told us very clearly. “If you want to follow me, deny yourself and carry the cross…” (Mt 16,24) Christ has shown us the way. We just have to bear the burden with him, so that our suffering and eventual death will lead us to the resurrection with Christ also. As St. Paul assured us, “if we died withs Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” (Rom 6,8)
Everyday, let us do acts of love in our usual dealings with others. We may appear to be taken advantage of, but let us not mind it. Our concern should simply be to love by serving and giving ourselves to others without counting the cost and without expecting any return.
The devil and us. We should never take the devil for granted. They are always around, ever scheming and plotting against us in many, many ways, and often in a manner that is so subtle that we may not even notice him. As St. Peter would put in his first letter: “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” (5,8)
We should never consider the devil as a myth, or as some kind of literary device only to highlight a point in the drama of our life. He is as real as you and me. Our problem is that we think lightly or, worse, falsely of him. And so we become completely unprepared to deal with his antics.
But in spite of that unfortunate fact of life, we should remember that the devil cannot do anything against us unless allowed by God. And if allowed, it is because God in his mysterious providence can always draw a greater good from any evil the devil may cause in us.
This is verified in the story of the trials of Job and that gospel episode of the man possessed by a legion of devils. (cfr. Mk 6,53-56) The devils, being fallen creatures of God, cannot help but acknowledge the authority of God over them. So, we should not be too afraid of the devil.
We just have to learn how to cope with him. First we should realize that any evil that befalls us, especially if it is moral and not just physical or material evil, is always instigated by the devil. Yes, we may have our own weaknesses and there also are many worldly tempting allurements around, but these can hardly do us harm unless stirred by the devil.
Our problem is that we often attribute the cause of any moral evil we commit to our human limitations alone and to the natural temptations in the world. We hardly consider the role of the devil who, being spiritual and supernatural, are far more superior to us in terms of power. And so we fail to take the adequate means to avoid him and to remedy the damage caused by him.
Let’s remember that as St. Paul said, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6,12)
We need to go to God to handle this lifelong predicament of ours properly. Aside from the human means which, of course, we should never neglect, we have to avail of the spiritual and supernatural means. We have to pray, offer sacrifices, wage continuing ascetical struggle, have recourse to the sacraments, develop virtues, etc.
In the meantime, let us also take note of the antics of the devil. We need to know him well as our archenemy. In this, we cannot be naïve. Especially with our more complicated times, it is urgently imperative that we know the ways of the devil very well. We should avoid dialoguing with the devil.
We have to strengthen our faith in God and our complete trust in the saving providence of God. We should not allow ourselves to be dominated by the devil for long. We would know when are being dominated by him when we let ourselves plunge into sadness, bitterness and depression. God is always there for us. All we have to do is to go to him.
Of course, we have to understand that our sensitivity to the presence and the ways of the devil and our power to avoid him or to free ourselves from him once caught by him depends on our closeness to God. In other words, the closer we are to God, the better for us with respect to our power to cope with the devil.