PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Friday, August 04, 2006

 

Coming full circle


"You mean you feel a little like saints now?", my officemate almost taunted us incredulously when a friend made the mistake of telling me within others' earshot, "It feels so good to be a renewed Christian!"

My friend was stopped dead in his tracks, not knowing how to respond.

I came to his rescue by saying, "Not really." Actually it's a very humbling experience because you'll realize that it's not on your own merit." "Like, for instance, you want to go to Mass because you feel 'sick,' you need help." That clipped her mouth instantly.

She's an intelligent girl. I need not explain that, in fact, this business of Christianity is even scary in a certain sense. A deeper knowledge of God means a higher call to service, in short, a greater responsibility. Then again, Christianity is never for the coward and the wimp. God is not really a scary God as long as the exercise of this responsibility, no matter if it is always inadequate, is done with the best of one's ability to love. In the first place, "God chastises only those whom He loves."

I really want to credit the Holy Spirit for the rescue 911 operation. As Jesus promised, "You should not worry about what to say or do....for the Holy Spirit will supply the words." True enough, when I find myself subsequently trapped in similar situations, I notice that it is no longer I who is doing the talking. The right words flow from my mouth with natural ease and I can personally understand the phrase "impelled by the Holy Spirit". That's one of the many "proofs of the Spirit" to the converted.

But the point of this piece is really more about the fact that serious Christians are - as Fr. J.J., OSP, once put it - "struggling saints." We do not exactly claim to have been recently canonized alive, or to walk around sporting haloes only us can see. What we claim is that we are a work in progress, constantly struggling to get there and there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it's the only thing that gives real meaning to life. In fact, it's something basic, something expected of a Christian.

Understandably, those uninitiated to the Renewal - if they are not touched in a profound way - cringe with incredulity at such personal testimonies, in the process unwittingly persecuting those who shamelessly display "the fervor of their first love".

Actually, at the end of the road, it is all the more embarrassing on the part of the uninitiated, and I can tell this because I had been there. I was in college during the onslaught of Christian fundamentalism in all the college campuses of the Philippines. R., a born-again friend of mine zealously recounted how God told him this and that and my immediate response was to roll my eyes and secretly elbow G., my equally flabbergasted roommate, right in front of our weirdo classmate who seem to have been possessed by something.

Another time, when I had a trouble looking around for a new room, someone suggested that I join J., the Campus Crusade for Christ's leader as roommate. I frowned, "Never mind. I'd only end up harangued with Biblical passages."

"The cheek," I'd say to myself in hindsight. Now that the tables are turned, I have no right to get offended. After all, there's always the Spirit to back me up.

Hindus call it karma but for me, it's clear I have come full circle.

9.3.2000


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