PARADOXICAL

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

 

Lent 2014 reflections: Day 14: My dilemma about apostolic zeal and intercession

“I cannot imagine a life… in Community, and not having an apostolic spirit.”
To paraphrase the above, as I understand it, we must never lose sight of our apostolic duty, our zeal for the salvation of souls apart from our own. Lack of zeal in this area is one indication (among many others) of spiritual death, or so I read from an infographic on Facebook.
My journey in this area is a nice case history to consider. It is a story of many ups and downs.
Post-CLP (Christian Life Program) euphoria sent me into a mental frenzy as I thought of ways of connecting with the people I encounter, especially at work, to attract them to consider Christian community life or at least Christianity.
In case it was not Spirit-driven, you could say the zeal was compulsive, i.e., just so I could have something to show, a concrete evidence of bearing fruit in God’s vineyard. If it was a case of fake (or faked) zeal, then maybe it’s like I wanted to make up for the lost years of my youth, or maybe even more guilt-driven than that: I wanted to pay for my sins – in other words, it’s all about me.
Years into community, that zeal somewhat died down, or maybe just ‘stabilized’ to less energetic levels. I became a less scary evangelist or apostle, you could say. It must be because something troubled me in the interim (interregnum?).
I noticed that, in my years of interceding for the salvation of souls, for conversion of sinners, and for the worldly concerns and intentions being offered up for intercession by someone or another, I have always suffered a little, or even much, each time I exercise "apostolic duty." Each of my ‘yes’ to a random “Please pray for me,” is met with a feeling of being taxed by the BIR for it.
This made me wonder whether I was doing things right. I thought: What’s the point of Christ having won the battle if I had to pay the price in my own little way? Isn't Jesus' one-time sacrifice enough? Aren't we taught that it's more than enough to last eternity?

Is this what it means to “fill up what’s lacking in Christ’s suffering”? In that case, is Christianity really a literal imitation of Christ, from Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee, Judea, to Calvary and Golgotha? What a scary thought, knowing I have moments when I am more of a little demon than a little Christ.
I once confessed this conundrum to an elder in community and separately to a priest, and what I got are answers that further unsettled me. Both of my consultants had the same incredulous response:  the priest, in particular, hearing how burdened I was complaining I was too unqualified to be a mini-Christ for the job, said that it shouldn’t be the case. We are supposed to be spiritually renewed each time we pray for others, he said.
The conflict escalated. What’s wrong with me, I wondered. Frankly, that got me scared about interceding for others again. When exactly am I making like Atlas and being like Jesus?
But old ways prove to die hard. In time, I reverted to my default mode, come what may. It’s like I couldn’t help it: if people asked for prayers, I had no choice but to say yes and, more importantly, actually do it. If Jesus felt power coming off Him at the touch of the hem by the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 6:19), who am I not to be just as spiritually sapped?
This, however, makes me prone to spiritual burnout that tends to come one after another, resulting in a spiritual roller-coaster ride.
Maybe I just have to accept that suffering a little, or much more, is one of those many unstated givens in the life of a Christian – an inevitability I just have to live with. Then again, maybe I am doing things wrong; maybe I am lacking in something. Maybe I am not filling up my love tank more than I need to, i.e., again and again each time I am sapped. Maybe I am being too careless about my need for rest, that's why I end up being an empty battery while offering my thoughts for others. (Well, there's no arguing that I need all sorts of rests and retreats as often as I can, given my Type A personality compounded by many anxieties.)
Maybe the trick is to just get even by asking others for intercessory prayers just as often as I receive requests. Or maybe it’s just the way it is indeed: Life is all about burden-sharing, whether or not you're a Christian; it's the intrinsic tax to living or being alive. As a Christian, in particular, it is inevitable that I get to share, literally, Jesus’ huge burden by putting in the time and effort for intercessory suffering. If I don't, then I don't live life fully. And If I chip in my ‘little’ (but not so little in my own estimation) contribution willingly and with deliberate awareness, then probably that’s when my suffering officially becomes sacrifice. That's when I probably could claim that my life has been lived fully.

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