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Up close and personal

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

THAT gospel episode about Christ healing a big crowd of sick people by laying his hands on each one of them (cfr. Lk 4,40) speaks eloquently of how we ought to deal with everyone we meet in our life. He just did not say, “All of you, be cured.” No. He approached everyone and laid his hands on each one.

Like Christ, we should try to be up close and personal with each of the people we meet, irrespective of who they are, whether they are relatives, friends, colleagues, strangers, and even enemies.

We have to avoid a casual and generic dealing that does not go deep enough to show and give the real charity that we are commanded to do.

Of course, this will require a lot of effort and sacrifice. We most likely will be tempted to think that Christ is God first of all. He has all the powers. Nothing is impossible with him. We cannot be like him since he is God in the first place. We are only human.

But he is also man who has assumed our human condition to the point of becoming like sin without committing sin (cfr. 2 Cor 5,21). He has assumed the worst condition that man can get into. Being “the way, the truth and the life,” he is showing us in this particular case how to deal with people in general.

The fact that we are simply human beings with all sorts of limitations and weaknesses should not be an excuse from developing and having a universal concern with a personalized approach in our dealings with people.

Let us remember that we have been made in God’s image and likeness, endowed with powers to enable us, with God’s grace, to be truly like God. In other words, it’s like we have been given a blank check the amount of which we are completely free to write. And what we write on that check depends on how we correspond to God’s grace in our effort to be like God through Christ in the Holy Spirit.

We have to train ourselves to have the very mind and heart of Christ. This, of course, would require us to do some adjustments and even drastic changes in our attitudes and ways. What is needed is that we just try and try, even if our best efforts cannot achieve that ideal. Anyway, we are not expected to reach that goal with our powers alone. It is Christ, with His grace, that will do it for us. Ours is simply to try.

We, of course, have our ways that can sort of define us—our temperament, personality, our biases, and preferences, our culture and lifestyle, our opinions and views, etc.—but we should not be trapped by them.

Our differences and conflicts among ourselves are unavoidable. But they are not meant to be divisive, alienating us from the others. They can be the condition to generate the power of God’s love that unites everyone to work on us.

That is why Christ told us to be humble, to have the attitude of wanting to serve and not to be served, to avoid the attitude of entitlement. He told us to deny ourselves and carry the cross. (cfr. Mt 16,24) St. Paul reiterates the same idea by saying that we have to regard everybody else as better than us, looking after the other’s interest rather than simply focusing on our own. (cfr. Phil 2,3-4)

This may be a tremendous, overwhelming endeavor to undertake, but we can always start somewhere. Are we training ourselves, for example, to be more thoughtful and mindful of others?

Are we developing a keen interest in the others? Are we learning to let go of our personal preferences to accommodate the way others are?

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Enterprising but not opportunistic. We are, of course, encouraged to be very fruitful and productive in our life. There should be no time for laziness and idleness. Even in our periods of rest, we can and should always be productive, since rest is not about doing nothing but rather about doing something different from the usual things we do which give us some relaxation but can still be productive in another way.

Our rest should not undermine our desire and eagerness to work. Rather, it should renew us physically, mentally and spiritually in such a way that we would like to work more and be productive. In short, our rest should not take us away from our duty to work and to be productive, but would rather reinforce it.

Thus, if we are truly serious about being fruitful and productive, we should be as enterprising as possible, even entrepreneurial, quick to take initiatives and to open new ventures that can benefit many people and make a significant change in our lives. We should be able to use and optimize all our resources, natural and man-made, for this purpose.

We just have to make sure that all this is our way of giving glory to God that would translate itself to working for the common good, and not just for our good. Otherwise, all that productiveness would amount to nothing and can, in fact, occasion a great danger to us, as Christ himself said: “What does it a profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?” (Mk 8,36)

At the moment, we can wonder if indeed this is the principal motive and driving force why we at present work. I have my doubts. Even a cursory look around somehow would tell me that God is often out of the picture when work is given some consideration. We need to address this issue.

We have to see to it that our efforts to be fruitful and productive are not of the opportunistic type that would take advantage of the weaknesses of others to bolster our interests.

Opportunistic fruitfulness is selfish or self-serving productiveness. 

Rather our efforts to be fruitful and productive should address the real needs of the people, not the artificial ones that, while generating some economic activity can lead us sooner or later to anomalies like materialism, commercialism, hedonism and other isms. They should be made to serve and reinforce the true and objective dignity of man.

In this regard, we should expect some sacrifices and forms of self-denial to be involved. We just should not behave according to purely economic laws that may already ignore or even contradict not so much our legal system as our objective moral law. A form of fruitfulness and productiveness that is without morality will always be fake, deceptive and dangerous.

Educating people about this attitude toward work and life in general, is now a big challenge because it can readily be seen that many people nowadays, especially the young ones, do not have yet the right spirit of work. They work only for themselves, to satisfy not so much their personal needs as their caprichos.

I imagine that this phenomenon must be a result of years of miseducating the previous generations about the true spirit of work and about what it means to be truly fruitful and productive.

Indeed a massive effort to inculcate a good work ethic, one that instills genuine spirituality and morality, should be launched. Of course, this should not be done in a coercive way, since that would defeat the purpose. It has to be done in an atmosphere of freedom and a sincere pursuit of what is true and proper for us insofar as our work is concerned.

Of course, all this has to start in the family, before we can count on the subsidiary support of schools, parishes, offices and other entities.

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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