Fr. Roy Cimagala .
WE have to be most aware of this fundamental truth about ourselves. Our identity is not just determined by our DNA, nor by our baptismal and legal name, our personal bio-data, etc. Our ultimate identity is that we are another Christ, ‘alter Christus.’ And if we have to exaggerate it some more, we are actually ‘ipse Christus,’ Christ himself. That’s what we are meant for.
We may not realize this truth immediately and may find it overwhelming and incredible, but that is what our Christian faith tells us. Why? Simply because we have been created by God in his image and likeness. We just did not come from our parents. We all come from God and belong to him.
We are made to be children of his, to share in his divine life and nature, to be actually one with him. That’s his will. We cannot do anything about it other than to try our best to conform ourselves to that truth—of course, with God’s grace and our all-out effort.
Thus, we have to go through the lifelong process of identifying ourselves more and more with Christ who is the pattern of our humanity and the redeemer of our damaged humanity. We have been given all the means. In fact, we have been given Christ himself, especially in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist!
We need to spread this truth of our faith more widely and earnestly break whatever barrier there is in all of us so we can become another Christ. At the moment, I believe that the majority of the so-called good people, good Christians or good Catholics believe that Christian life is more about doing good things, praying, sacrificing, doing works of mercy, etc.
All of these are part of what Christianity is all about.
But Christianity has a more radical foundation. It involves making ourselves another Christ, assuming the sentiments and very identity of Christ, much like what St. Paul once said: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” (Gal 2,20)
Even more, St. Paul said that we should have the mind and the sentiments of Christ. (cfr. 1 Cor 2,16) We need to check ourselves from time to time if indeed the mind and sentiments of Christ are developing in us.
It is a mind and heart that is clean of pride and arrogance, of selfishness and greed. Rather it is filled with humility, goodness, mercy, willingness to suffer and to bear the burdens and sins of others, etc. It is a mind and heart that fully complies with all the teachings of Christ.
Of course, human as we are, we would feel awkward to assume that radical identity, but we just have to overcome that awkwardness. Progressively assuming that identity will actually give us peace and joy and the quiet conviction that we are doing the right thing in life, we are hitting the mark and not distracted by many other worldly things.
We would never feel the pride of the sinful type. In fact, we would be happy giving ourselves completely to others in a gratuitous way, passing unnoticed and not expecting any earthly reward. The virtue of humility grows ever deeper and stronger.
We would not mind being misunderstood and made to suffer even for the good things we do. We would be aware that we are co-redeeming with Christ since the work of human redemption continues all throughout time.
We should see to it that we realize we are meant to be another Christ and work it out tenaciously with the help of the ever-available grace of God. And yes, we have to help one another to make this ideal real in our life.
We’re still being created. We need to be clear about this fundamental truth about ourselves. We are still being created by God. Our creation is still ongoing. Our creation is still in the making. This time though, our creation involves our cooperation.
If we review the story of the creation of the world (cfr. Gen 1,1-2,1), we will notice that God created everything before man in a generic way—the heaven and the earth, light, darkness, land, sea, animals, birds, etc. But when it came to the creation of man, God became personal and entered into relation with man by giving them instructions.
With man, God had to make the garden of Eden for man to cultivate it. Since it was not good for man to be alone, God created woman to be his helper who is equal to him. They were told that they can eat the fruits of all the trees in the garden except the ones of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
This only shows that the creation of man is not yet finished since man, being created in God’s image and likeness and therefore has the capacity to know and to love, has to do his part of cooperating with God’s creation of him.
That stint in the garden of Eden was for man, i.e., Adam and Eve, to do his part of his own creation. And we know what happened. Our first parents failed, and so God who at first was angry and punished them, started to undertake the re-creation through a very complicated plan of redemption.
That plan that involved patriarchs, prophets, a chosen people, many holy men and women, finally had its culmination when the very Son of God became man. The God-man, Jesus Christ, bore all our sins and had to show us the way to redeem ourselves by following him in his teachings and ultimately by suffering, dying and resurrecting with him.
Christ also founded the Church and instituted the sacraments so that his presence and redemptive work can effectively continue with us till the end of time, which is the end of our creation.
At our death and at the end of time, our creation is supposed to be finished with each one of us receiving a new name that only each of us would know. It’s a name that is distinctive and unique to each one of us. This will be our definitive name for all eternity, indicating the very personal relationship between God and us, the Creator and the co-creator.
This new and definitive name is referred to in the Book of the Apocalypse where it says, “To him who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it.” (2,17)
It would be good if we are keenly aware of this truth of our faith because this will give us the proper perspective, meaning and direction of our life here on earth. At the moment, I am afraid a great majority of the people, even among educated Catholics, are not quite aware of this truth and are therefore not doing what they are supposed to do to conform to this truth. Many are actually confused and lost.
It would be good if a catechesis be made on this fundamental truth about ourselves and our earthly life. We are still being created, and our creation by God involves our cooperation, given the way we are as designed by God. We are God’s co-creator of our own selves.
We need to do our part, making use of everything we have in this life to further this lifelong process of our creation. We have to be responsible for the practical consequences and implications contained in this fundamental truth about ourselves.