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Not to condemn but to save

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

ST. John in his gospel made it clear what God’s attitude is toward us. “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,” he said, “but that the world might be saved through him.” (3,17)

That divine attitude should also be ours toward one another.

That’s why Christ, our redeemer who accomplished his mission of redeeming us more by offering forgiveness rather than by just preaching about what is right and wrong, gave us a new commandment that summarizes and perfects all the previous commandments God has given us.

“Love one another as I have loved you,” (Jn 13,34)  he said, literally telling us that we should be more forgiving as he was and is, rather than merely insisting on what is right.

Reiterating this point, he said that it is with this attitude that we can truly be considered as Christ’s disciples. (cfr. Jn 13,35) In other words, unless we are forgiving and merciful as Christ is to all of us, we would not be truly his disciples if we insist simply on being right. Such attitude would be considered self-righteous, because that is not the righteousness taught, shown and commanded by Christ to us.

That is also why Christ told us clearly that we have to love our enemies. “Do good to those who hate you,” he said, “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.” (Lk 6,27-29)

We need to examine ourselves if we truly have this attitude of Christ, if we truly follow what he taught us and what he himself did. We have to moderate our reactions if not restrain ourselves from our tendency to immediately fight back, seek revenge, complain and accuse everytime we feel offended.

This does not mean that we should not be interested in justice and in affirming and defending what is right from wrong. But in all these efforts, we should not compromise the charity that Christ is commanding us to live. Like Christ, we have to be magnanimous, patient, willing to suffer.

We have to be willing to offer forgiveness and mercy. Like Christ we have to be willing to bear the wrongs of the others, and to work for their conversion, instead of focusing as our ultimate goal the righting of what is wrong. We can never have perfect justice here on earth. That justice can only be given by God himself.

We have to realize that with our human condition, we cannot totally avoid what is wrong, evil and sinful in this life. That’s a given that we should not waste time debating about anymore. We just have to follow the example and commandment of Christ when dealing with this unavoidable fact of life.

When we have to fight for justice and for what is right, let it be that we do it with magnanimity and humility, and never as an expression of self-righteousness. As one saint once said, let us simply drown evil with an abundance of good, even if in the process, we are made to suffer, and to suffer unjustly.

Let’s never forget that as many people have already affirmed, our life here on earth and the world itself can be very unfair. Let’s not make a big issue out of this reality. Fairness and justice can only be perfectly achieved when we follow the example of Christ.

Obviously, a training in the virtues of charity, mercy, magnanimity, patience, humility, etc. is a must and should be carried out right at the bosom of each family. It has to be shown that it is in these virtues where we can have our true liberation, our salvation, our fulfilment.

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Faith and ideology. We have to learn to distinguish the faith from the many human ideologies that can be inspired by faith. First of all, faith is a supernatural gift, while an ideology is a system of ideas and ideals that forms the basis of some human behavior. The former is a divine gift, while the latter is of human making.

As a divine gift, the faith will always require God’s grace for it to be received and lived properly by us. A life of faith will always be something spiritual and supernatural. On the other hand, the ideology is just our human way of systematizing what we think is good and ideal for us. It is a human affair that may or may not be open to God’s grace. It may or may not be spiritual and supernatural.

In the wake of the controversy surrounding the Synod on the Amazon, many church people are accusing others, including the Pope who also returned the favor, that the faith is being reduced to a human ideology.

Now, this is a very intriguing development aside from being unfortunate and saddening, because all of us would be put into a quandary as to who really has the faith and who simply is indulging or developing a human ideology. Are the so-called conservative churchmen and theologians the only ones with the faith, while the so-called liberal ones are only having or are just developing an ideology?

What I know is that faith, being supernatural, will always involve mysteries and other supernatural truths beyond our capacity to understand. As such, it requires trust from the believers who exercise their faith precisely when they would just trust God and the ones God has given the authority to teach something as coming or revealed by God.

They believe not because they understand, but rather because they trust in the one who presents the truth of our faith. Our faith just cannot be ruled by our reason alone nor by any other human ways of knowing things. It will always involve God’s grace.

This is how the Catechism describes faith: “What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.

“So that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit.

“Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability, are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all; they are motives of credibility which show that the assent of faith is by no means a blind impulse of the mind.” (CCC 156)

Faith will always challenge us to know more, to understand more, to behave better and to be better ourselves. It will never stop demanding from us. Our ideology, being a human system, somehow gives us some sense of stability since it is meant to guide us with some rules and policies. But if it has to be a good ideology, it has to be open to the impulses of faith.

It’s in this business of trying to correspond to the impulses of faith that we, of course, as the Church and individually, have to find ample ways. We, of course, have to have recourse first to the spiritual and supernatural means of prayers, sacrifice, sacraments, etc. But we also need to find the appropriate human means for this.

Thus, in the Church, there have been councils and synods and other collegial ways, led by the proper authority who is the Pope, that were convoked to discern what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us today regarding concrete issues.

E-mail: roycimagala@gmail.com

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About Fr. Roy Cimagala

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Fr. Roy Cimagala is the chaplain of the Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise (Cite) in Talamban, Cebu City.

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