By Fr. Roy Cimagala
“I TELL you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” (Jn 5,20) Words of Christ that warn us of the danger of self-righteousness as exemplified by the scribes and Pharisees of his time and that undermine the true charity that comes from God who is the very essence of love as fully manifested by Christ.
We have to understand that this charity surpasses whatever human standard we have about love. This charity is a love without measure, given without calculation, without expecting any return. It just gives and gives, even if along the way it encounters difficulties, rejection, suffering. It embraces them, not flee from them. By its nature, it is given gratuitously.
Love engenders generosity and its relatives: magnanimity, magnificence, compassion, patience, pity, etc. This is the language of love, the currencies it uses. It thinks big, even if the matter involved is small according to human standards. In fact, it’s love that makes small, ordinary things big and special.
That’s in theory. In practice, though, there can be elements that put limits and conditions to that love. This can be due to a number of reasons. One of them is because man grows by stages, and his capacity to love also develops in stages. It goes through a development timeline, much like one’s growth timeline from childhood to adulthood and maturity.
We have to understand that to be able to love, we need to be with God, for God is love. He is the source, pattern and end of love. All our loves here on earth, to be real, have to be inspired by that love that is in God. Otherwise, they are fake.
It stands to reason then that we need to go to him, to pray and meditate on his love—how he created us and endowed us with the best things in life, making us his image and likeness, and in fact children of his.
We need to realize ever deeply that his love goes to the extent of forgiving us for our sins and stupidities, and not only by decreeing things, but by assuming even our sinfulness and dying to it.
We need to feel that love in a very direct and immediate way, which can only be achieved first of all with his grace, but also with our effort. We need to feel that such love is the one that inspires, directs and energizes our loves here on earth.
So, we really need to spend time entering into this reality, first of all, by praying, by meditating, then by studying the doctrine of our faith, since God’s love is not mere sentiments. It involves truth whose substance is passed on to us through the doctrine revealed and lived by Christ, and now authoritatively taught by the Church.
We need to outgrow our tendency to fall for an unrealistic and sugary understanding of love, so common these days, especially among the young, or worse, associating love with the purely carnal and selfish. Unfortunately, there are many caught in this kind of predicament.
When we have this kind of love, we will spring into action, always with joy and peace. Sadness, feeling lazy and the like are dregs and signs of self-love. God’s love, on the other hand, makes us very alive even in the midst of so much trials and suffering.
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