The animal in us
HINTS AND TRACES - Fr. Roy Cimagala (The Freeman) - March 24, 2019 - 12:00am

We are supposed to be rational animals, rationality being the quality distinguishing us from the other animals. But let’s never forget we are and will always be governed by natural, physical, biological, chemical, social, economic laws, etc.

And these latter laws have impulses that often go against rationality. That’s why, in our vulnerable moments, when we are tired, sleepy, intoxicated, or when we are not yet in our full senses, etc., we are usually assailed by these impulses. So, we must really be careful. We have to be properly guarded and protected from these eventualities.

What we have to do is to undertake a lifelong process of integrating all these aspects together with rationality as the guiding and directing principle. It’s rationality that indicates we too are spiritual beings with a supernatural goal that we can achieve through God’s grace and our efforts. It’s our rational nature that tells us we are meant beyond, but not against, the physical and natural aspects of our life.

The challenge is how to carry out this very tricky and demanding task of integrating these aspects. And for this, we should rely on the grace of God, always asking for it, even if it’s readily given to us. That’s because we often take God’s grace for granted, and thus make ourselves the improper ground, unable to take advantage of the grace sown on it.

We should never forget our animality, no matter how high a level we think we have achieved in terms of our rationality and spirituality. We will always be hounded by the erratic impulses of our animality.

Remember St. Paul lamenting about this lifelong predicament of ours. “I see another law at work in my body warring against the law of my mind and holding me captive to the law of sin that dwells within me.” (Rom 7,23)

We need to discipline and purify the animality of our humanity. That’s why Christ told us clearly that we need to deny ourselves, carry the cross and follow him. (cfr. Lk 9,23) We should be careful with pampering our body too much. It’s is not a matter of repressing bodily impulses, but of directing them properly.

So, with respect to our passions, those strong emotions that often overpower reason and faith, we need to mortify them to purify them of their tendencies toward evil.

St. Paul said: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal 5,24) We can never overemphasize the need to “crucify” our passions and desires the way Christ was crucified and by so doing rendered death to all kinds of evil in man and in the world.

The ideal to pursue is that our passions and desires would be those of Christ. We have to convert our passions and desires into those of love, a love that isn’t afraid of anything, a love that can conquer anything, a love that, while involving struggle and some kind of warfare, will give us peace and joy the world cannot give. (cfr. Jn 14,27)

We have to strive to be a spiritual man instead of a carnal man as described by St. Paul: “The person without the Spirit (carnal man) does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

“The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor 2,14-16)

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