Strength in weakness
By Fr. Roy Cimagala
Last updated 03:29am (Mla time) 07/22/2006
A PASSAGE from St. Paul says it all: "For when I am weak, then am I strong." (2 Cor 12,10). He reiterates it in another letter: "The weak things of the world has God chosen, that He may confound the strong." (1 Cor 1,27)
This is divine logic. Christ himself consistently showed this throughout his earthly life -- from birth down to his death on the cross. The saints through the ages have tried to follow that example.
We have to understand that this logic is meant not only for God but also for us. And I would say it is meant especially for our leaders, clergy, politicians, teachers, people in the media, in the arts, or all those who have great impact on society.
The strength more proper to us is not so much physical as spiritual, not so much intellectual as moral, not so much in terms of talents or natural endowments or worldly accomplishments as our living identity with Christ.
Our true strength has its source not in nature but in God himself, in such a way that with St. Paul we can also say: "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me." (Phil 4,13)
There is divine strength in what we, and the world, usually consider as weakness. We should always bear this truth in mind, so that whenever this weakness comes to us in whatever form, we quickly would realize we have a golden opportunity to derive divine strength from it.
No amount of physical limitations, health problems, financial difficulties, no amount of painful conflicts and failures in whatever endeavors we undertake, should weaken our conviction about this truth. On the contrary, they should reinforce it.
We have to learn to welcome and embrace hardships, our general attitude toward them being more supernatural than merely human. In this way, we avoid the dangers of anger, bitterness, discouragement, despair, sadness. In short, we can avoid the Devil, who is clueless about the wisdom of the cross.
Thus, we have to learn and cultivate the appropriate attitude and virtues to allow God's grace to work in us. These could be humility, obedience, simplicity. A certain detachment from things in general is always helpful. These could be the art of passing unnoticed, of thinking always with purity of heart, of speaking and writing with tact, charity and refinement, of acting with rectitude of intention, all driven by love -- for God and for others.
The consequences would be immediate and obvious. We will experience a greater capacity to see things more objectively, to judge things more properly, to do things more effectively.
There will be palpable joy and peace not only on our faces, but also in all our behavior. Our feelings, emotions and passions are held in check. They don't rule us. Rather we rule them according to the dictates of faith and charity.
We will have greater capacity to be more recollected, to be more prudent and discreet. In fact, what in the book of Isaiah is said can be applied to us:
"The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and godliness.
"And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge according to the sight of the eyes, nor reprove according to the hearing of the ear." (11,2-3)
These are all possible with God's grace and our cooperation. Imagine what goodness and transformation for the better we would all have if we learn to derive strength from weakness, how to be strong when we are weak!
* * *
WE have to be reminded of this virtue, indispensable not only to achieve personal integrity but also to attain a certain level of social harmony.
Now that we are growing into more complex socio-political life, we all the more need to be sincere -- with God, with others, with our own selves -- to achieve authentic personal and social development.
At the moment, we seem to be drowned by an ocean of data and opinions, while truth
is left out in the cold. This situation has been with us for so long that we already consider it normal.
Everyone is claiming he is sincere in his views and cites all sorts of info and other pieces of evidence to support what he says.
While these claims are good, sincerity actually goes far beyond these purely subjective affirmations. It goes far beyond simply reporting what took place or what we see, feel or know. True sincerity is never cold and callous.
Sincerity is love for the truth. It presumes a certain living as contrasted to a formalistic relationship with how one understands truth to be.
This is the source of the problem. Truth to many is just what we see, feel or know. Or it's what we studied, researched on, what we learn from other sources. Truth is seldom considered to have anything to do with God, who is Truth Himself and the source of all truths.
When sincerity is not actively linked to God, then what we have is a very precarious, even dangerous kind of sincerity.
It would be a sincerity prone to pride, arrogance, and pursuit of self-interest. It would be sincerity devoid of charity, compassion and mercy. It would be a divisive sincerity, susceptible to be easily manipulated and to lead to self-righteousness.
It would be a sincerity that serves the tricks and wiles of human malice, sowing intrigues, creating contentions, fuelling loquacity and rash judgments.
We have been amply warned about these caricatures of sincerity in the gospel, but sadly these are what we are seeing around us these days! And in abundance.
Authentic sincerity is always a function of a living relationship with God. It is a sincerity that always upholds the truth in charity. Humility, simplicity and refinement always accompany it. Prudence and discretion temper it.
A truly sincere person considers his statements as a living part of his continuing dialogue not with men only but with God mainly. He lives a sincerity that makes him realize he has to make changes and conversions in his own self first before he can expect these in others.
It is a sincerity that is patient, willing to make sacrifices and to suffer for the truth. It is always accompanied by some kind of interior struggle against the constant enemies of the soul that also are the enemies of truth: pride, selfishness, vanity, etc.
These vices distort truth and reality. And when left uncorrected, they can build a culture that actually harms and demeans humanity.
To be sincere, it is indispensable to be prayerful. Truth cannot be handled simply relying on our good senses. It can only be handled properly with God, and prayer is our constant contact with God.
There are other requirements of sincerity. But I think that the most basic, the most indispensable, is to pray. Everything else has to flow from it. Otherwise, we would just be tossed and fro in an ocean of so-called "truths" that are none other than self-affirmations detached from the source of Truth.
This is something we have to understand well.
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