Zeal and triumphalism

By: Fr. Roy Cimagala

WE NEED to distinguish between the two, since they usually go together and yet while to be zealous is good, to be triumphalistic is not. Yes, we should try our best to be zealous in everything we do, putting passion into them. We have to be bent on achieving the goal of any undertaking.

Somehow we have to reflect the same attitude Christ had toward his redemptive mission: “I have come to ignite a fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Lk 12,49)

But Christ’s passion for his redemptive mission is not without great sacrifice. We know that he even went all the way to offer his life on the cross. He was zealous but not triumphalistic. It is also not without great pain, since it can cause division from our loved ones and detachment from earthly things.

To be triumphalistic is simply some kind of obsession to win, to score points, to dominate others, while neglecting the effort and the cost that would be involved. It is actually just a sign of pride and arrogance. It is not willing to suffer while it always tries to grab credit for its acts and to be always in the limelight and to be regarded highly by others.

We have to be zealous, but we should avoid being triumphalistic. We should try to rally all our powers for the achievement of our ultimate goal, which is the salvation of mankind together with Christ. And this can only mean that we have to be ready to suffer because the only way to achieve man’s salvation is through the way of Christ’s cross.

Thus to be zealous the way Christ was zealous is compatible with suffering, with being misunderstood and persecuted. It is also compatible with being meek and humble. It knows how to be very active and yet passing unnoticed.

It surely will involve forcefulness and even violence, but it would be the forcefulness of Christian love. And the violence involved will be more on oneself than on others. To be sure, a lot of self-denial would be involved here. Yes, because of the spirit of detachment involved, we can appear to cause division with those close to us, as described by Christ himself. (cfr. Lk 14,26)

We have to learn to be zealous which can be a very challenging task these days, because many now are the factors that can undermine the zeal that we ought to have. There are many distractions around, not to mention temptations, that definitely will divert us from the proper path.

The new technologies, for example, while giving us a lot of practical advantages, can become a sweet poison, leading us to be self-indulgent and to subtle forms of addiction. It can give the impression that we are active and dynamic since we can fuss over many things through them, but it actually deviates us from our proper goal. It’s like running fast but out of track.

These new technologies can also lead us to be passive, languid, and lazy, if we are not careful. Sad to say, we can see this unfortunate phenomenon affecting many people today in this way. They have given up the need to exert effort, to make initiatives, to analyze and to be inventive because they are charmed by these new technologies.

It’s important that we make a daily to-do plan so we would have a clear sense of direction and purpose for the day. Let’s make sure that the to-do list is considered in our prayer so that we would more or less know that they really are part of God’s will and not just our own will. And then always rectifying our intentions, we pour our energy into those things in the plan.

In this way, we avoid the danger of triumphalism.

Email: roycimagala@gmail.com