Fr. Roy Cimagala .
THE story of Moses receiving complaints from his fellow Israelites as he led them out of the bondage of Egypt (cfr. Ex 14,5-18) reminds us of the hardness of our heart to resist conversion and return to God from our state of sin.
Like those complaining Israelites, we prefer to continue enjoying the perks of sin rather than go through the pain involved in our conversion from sin. We can echo the same words of the complaining Israelites: “Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians. For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” (Ex 14,12)
These perks can only entrap us to greater and irreversible trouble. Yes, they can give us some convenience, comfort, pleasure, etc. But in the end, they will only bring us down to hell, to a complete self-separation from God even if God would still continue to love us.
We should be most aware of this usual condition of ours and do something about it. We have to be wary of the intoxicating and blinding perks of sin which can only be overcome if, letting the grace of God to work on us, we humble ourselves to follow what Christ tells us through the Church now.
Let us instead always remember what the Letter to the Hebrews said in this regard: “As the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did.
“’That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” (3,8-11)
Let us always remember that only with God can we find our true joy, peace and rest. But given our wounded condition here on earth, we have to expect some sacrifices for us to attain that real joy. Let us not be duped by the many dangerous perks of sin. We need to realize that we always need to have conversion of heart.
That we are all sinners and in need of conversion should come as no surprise to us. We just have to be realistic in handling this lifetime predicament of ours, making use of all the means that, thanks to God, have also been made available in abundance.
There’s confession, for one, and the Holy Eucharist, spiritual direction, regular examinations of conscience, indulgences, etc.
There’s just one interesting thing that, I believe, is worth bringing up at this point in time. And that is that conversion should not just be a matter of a moment, but should rather be a stable state of mind and heart.
St. John Paul II’s encyclical, “Dives in misericordia” (Rich in mercy), has some relevant words about this point. “Authentic knowledge of the God of mercy, the God of tender love,” the saintly Pope said, “is a constant and inexhaustible source of conversion, not only as a momentary interior act but also as a permanent attitude, as a state of mind.”
He continues: “Those who come to know God in this way, who ‘see’ Him in this way, can live only in a state of being continually converted to Him. They live, therefore in ‘status conversionis;’ and it is this state of conversion which marks out the most profound element of the pilgrimage of every man and woman on earth in ‘status viatoris.’” (13)
It would be good to go slowly on these words if only to feel at home with this wonderful truth of divine mercy as well as our lifetime need for it. Let’s hope and pray that we can manage to conform our attitudes and core beliefs along these lines expressed by St. John Paul.
A blank check from God. That’s what God has practically given us. He has created us to be his image and likeness. And he has given us everything to reach that goal—our intelligence, will and his powerful grace, and everything else that is for our own good.
In a sense, his precious project with us is well funded. Now it is up to us to write whatever amount we are going to put on that check by way of our free correspondence to his will for us.
Whatever amount we write there, it will always be honored.
This is a truth of our Christian faith that we have to be most aware of. Besides, even if along the way, we bumble and commit all sorts of mistakes and blunders, God knows what to do with them, deriving something good from them. It’s a win-win proposition. But it is also true that in spite of this great privilege, we can choose to lose.
We need to be more aware that our life here on earth is a matter of how much we correspond to God’s will and ways. It is a matter of giving ourselves to him, and because of him then also to the others. It’s a matter of losing ourselves in order to win him, to become like him as he wants us to be.
That is why Christ has been consistent in saying that we need to deny ourselves, carry his cross and follow him. (cfr. Mt 16,24) More vividly, he said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14,26)
We have to lose our fear of losing ourselves if only to have God, to be with God, and to be like God as he wants us to be. This might sound like an insane proposition if considered in human terms. But God assures us that what we seem to lose would be gained back many times over.
“No one,” he said, “who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions, and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mk 10, 29-30)
We need to have the conviction that it is all worthwhile to give up everything for God. We should never be afraid because he will take care of everything. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” Christ said. (Mt 6,33)
Ours is simply to correspond to his will as fully as we can, imitating the example of Christ, our way, truth and life, who gave up everything, including his life, to do his Father’s will to save us. And that giving up led to the resurrection.
Like Christ, we should correspond to God’s will even to the most extreme of conditions. St. Paul, another good example of how one should very generously correspond to God’s will, gives us an idea of the extent to which we should be willing to correspond to God’s will.
“I have worked much harder,” he said, “been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move…” (2 Cor 11,23-26)
We need to train ourselves to give ourselves to God more and more, even if it is slow especially at the beginning and in small degrees. As long as it is steadily done, we can end up writing a big amount on the blank check God gives us.