‘Stir into flame the gift of God’

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

WE recall these words St. Paul addressed to St. Timothy—and now to us—precisely on the Memorial of Sts. Timothy and Titus, celebrated on January 26. These words are a call not only to be faithful to any gift God has given us—and we are actually given everything that is good for us—but also to be very zealous in making use of these gifts for God’s glory and for the good of all men.

Said in another way, we have to continue fighting against our usual tendency to fall into lukewarmness in our dedication to God and to others. What’s so dangerous about spiritual lukewarmness is that it often passes as something ordinary and normal. It hardly causes any worry, much less, alarm. It lulls many of us to think there’s no problem.

It’s an attitude, a mindset, and, worse, a culture that is stuck with the minimalist virus, contented with what is practical, convenient, popular, profitable, etc., and goes no further. It justifies itself by saying, “Why do I need to go any further? Things are already ok as they are.”

It is the perfect expression of the adage, “The good is the enemy of the best.” And so, it fails to submit itself to the law of love that requires self-giving without measure, a total self-giving whose language is generosity and heroism all the way to death.

Of course, behind that justification is a subtle, unspoken compromise with one’s laziness and other weaknesses, not to mention, his lack of faith and spirit of sacrifice. That justification puts one in the Stop mode of his spiritual life, when it is supposed always to Go, to Move, to Grow always.

In the Book of Revelation, there is a clear condemnation of such spiritual illness. “Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” (3,16)

We have to be more aware of this danger and do all to avoid, if not fight against it. The basic and indispensable antidote to this danger is love, the proper kind of love that comes only from God and is a living participation of the very love of God which is the only true love there is.

This love has the power of continuing self-renewal and self-perpetuation, and of supporting and even going beyond our physical and other natural powers. This is the love that will keep us always young and vibrant, and will give us a taste of eternity while still in time.

How to keep that love burning, how to continually feed it is a concern we ought to cultivate in ourselves. We can be sure that we are not engaging here in some quixotic, unrealistic adventure, since on the part of God, everything is already given to us.

We need a strong and jolting reality check to wake us up from this predicament. First, we need to be rescued from the mainstream idea that true love is what comes simply from one’s heart, but not necessarily from God. It’s more a matter of feelings, of what pleases and satisfies one’s longing.

This, to me, is the very virus responsible for lukewarmness. Human love in all its forms can only be true love if it flows from the love of God. Our problem is that we seem to be helplessly infatuated with our own kind of love. We should get out of that frame of mind, asking for God’s grace and mercy, so that his love enters into our heart.

Email: roycimagala@gmail.com