Tough and strong
HINTS AND TRACES - Fr. Roy Cimagala (The Freeman) - February 27, 2020 - 12:00am

That’s how priests, and others in similar position, should be. They, we—me included—have to be tough and strong because aside from bearing our own personal burdens, from contending with our own personal demons, we also have to bear the burdens of the others. It is no joke to serve like the receptacle of the problems of the others and to find ways to help them.

Since we priests usually hear confessions and give counseling and spiritual direction to others, we cannot help but be affected somehow by what we hear. And the problems of some people can be so heavy and heart-wrenching that we end up exhausted, practically emptied of any strength and energy.

The worse part is what to say as advice and how to say it. It indeed is a big challenge to be able to present the mercy and love of God when the people’s problems seem to have no human solution or when their miseries and weaknesses seem to be persistent and insurmountable despite their efforts.

In these cases, the challenge is how to present God’s love in such a way that his love and mercy is seen as soothing, acceptable and meaningful. The challenge is how to present God’s love such that even if pain and suffering are unavoidable, people can see that God’s love takes care of everything. They would realize that what they cannot solve, God will always solve it for them in his own mysterious ways.

There is no doubt that a lot of spiritual and supernatural means are needed here. We have to pray that the people’s faith gets stirred and enlivened, that their hope gets reaffirmed and strengthened, that their love for God gets enkindled.

Aside from prayer, a lot of sacrifices are also needed. Prayer and sacrifices vitally unite and identify us with Christ who is the one to give us all the strength and light we need. Let’s remember what St. Paul said in this regard: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4,13)

With Christ and in him, our toughness would also know how to be tender and gentle, how to be understanding, compassionate and empathetic, as described in this passage from the gospel of St. Matthew: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not extinguish, till he leads justice to victory.” (12,20)

While our toughness will always be a fruit, first of all, of God’s grace, it will also depend on our proper attitude, skills and virtues. What we have to do first is to rein in but not suppress our emotions and passions, subjecting them to the tenets of our faith rather than just the impulses of our hormones.

We have to learn how not to overdramatize the pain and suffering involved in bearing the burdens of the others. This is important because this will help us to think more objectively, and therefore enabling us to make better judgments and assessments of things.

What can also be helpful is the consideration that when we exert the effort—sometimes the heroic effort—to bear the burdens of the others with Christ, we are actually already helping them greatly. It is the truth about the communion of saints that assures us that whatever we suffer for the others will always redound to their own good.

roycimagala@gmail.com

GOD
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