“Follow me”

HINTS AND TRACES - Fr. Roy Cimagala - The Freeman

That’s what Christ told Peter after telling him what to expect as the rock on which Christ would build his Church. (cfr. Jn 21,19)

“Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go,” Christ told him. And the gospel said that Christ said this to signify the kind of death Peter would have to glorify God.

Let’s remember that the key to enable us to tackle whatever difficulty and challenges we may have in life is to follow Christ. If we want to follow him and to become like him, sharing his very spirit that is intended for us by God, our Creator, we have to learn and even to welcome and love suffering. It’s in suffering that the fullness of love, which is the very spirit of Christ, is attained.

We have to understand this very well. Unless we love the cross, we can never say that we are loving enough. Of course, we have to qualify that assertion. It’s when we love the cross the way God wills it --the way Christ loves it-- that we can really say that we are loving as we should, or loving with the fullness of love.

We have to be wary of our tendency to limit our loving to ways and forms that give us some benefits alone, be it material, moral, or spiritual. While they are also forms of love, they are not yet the fullness of love.

They somehow are forms of love that have traces of self-interest. They are not total self-giving, completely rid of self-interest, which is what true love is. And if they are not corrected, if they are not oriented towards the fullness of love, they can occasion a lot of danger and, worse, anomalies.

Loving the cross the way Christ loved it is the ultimate of love. It is the love that is completely deprived of selfishness. It is total self-giving, full of self-abnegation. St. Paul described this kind of love in Christ when he said:

“Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not count equality with God, a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2,6-8)

The cross, which is the symbol of all our sinfulness and the death that is the consequence of our sin, has not led God to hate us and to condemn us forever. Rather, it has moved God to love us with a love greater than that of creating us to be his image and likeness.

To follow Christ or to be truly Christ-like would, of course, be an endless affair. We can never say we are definitively Christ-like, since we can never exhaust the richness of Christian life no matter how much effort we exert. We just have to try and try. At least, every day we should be able to say that we are becoming more and more like Christ in a specific aspect.

To follow Christ, we have to offer everything in our life to God. We have to learn to give up everything for God, to live true detachment from earthly things even as we continue to use them. We have to reach that point that we are willing to offer our life to God, unafraid of death and all the suffering that goes with dying.

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