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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, February 22, 2016
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Rock and refuge
with Fr. Roy Cimagala

Vigilance of love

The essential part of our being social creatures is that we have to love each other, care for each other, feel responsible for one another. Failing in this could only mean we are failing in our humanity.

That's why we have to keep a constant vigilance of love on the others. It's not spying on them and to plunge into rash judgments and fault-finding. It's simply exercising what is proper to all of us. We therefore have to be wary of the many things that tend to undermine this wonderful responsibility.

First, we need to outgrow the natural stage of childhood of our human development that understandably tends to make us self-centered. Babies, toddlers and little children always need attention, but as they grow, they need to be more thoughtful of the others.

They have to be taught how to assume more and more responsibilities as they grow, giving them some job assignments appropriate to their condition. The other day, I was impressed to see a family of three in the airport. The toddler, who must have been not more than 3 years old, carried an empty big paper bag, imitating his parents who were carrying all the luggage. I thought that was a good way of teaching a tot some sense of responsibility.

Unfortunately we can still see many people who are stuck in the childhood stage. At 40 or 50, they still think and behave like little children who always want attention from others and who shy away from responsibilities. They want to be served, rather than to serve, contrary to what Christ himself said.

Of course, when we are with such persons, we have to care for them, showing them the appropriate attention and affection, but never giving up in teaching them to grow toward human and Christian maturity.

But the more challenging part is how to contend with the strong wave today in our culture that would pressure us to be self-centered, self-absorbed and self-seeking. We have to learn how to handle the allure of the new technologies, the tension involved when facing problems, crises, issues, or otherwise, intoxicating successes in life.

We have to learn how to have a certain detachment from these gadgets and issues if only not to lose sight of the more important duty to think of the others. It's not a matter of rejecting the amazing gadgets and ignoring the issues of the day. It is more of subordinating them to our duty to be most mindful and thoughtful of the others.

It's actually when we care for the others when we achieve the progress and development proper to our own life. It's not in pursuing our own interests, with the others serving only as props to our self-seeking pursuits. It's rather when we care for the others that we become Christ-like and attain our human maturity.

Caring for the others goes all the way to being compassionate with them. That is to say, we have to learn to enter into other people's lives, into their mind and heart, to such an extent that we experience, feel, enjoy and suffer what they themselves experience, feel, enjoy and suffer.

In this regard, we can make a fine distinction between simply being merciful and being truly compassionate. A merciful person may not be compassionate. He may even be hateful, as when he forgives someone simply because he wants to do away with that disturbing or irritating person.

A truly merciful person is first of all a compassionate person. Genuine mercy can only sprout from the soil of compassion.

Without the latter, the former can only be at best apparent, false, deceptive and dangerous. The former can only be harmful.

In our examinations of conscience, we need to ask whether we are progressing in the virtue of compassion. Do we have a growing interest to know others more and more? Are we acquiring the skills to be more adaptable to their conditions and more available to their needs?

For all these, it is important that we have a clear idea of what is objectively good for everyone. Thus, we can only be vigilant out of love, mercy and compassion when we are vitally united in Christ.

This condition is, of course, always a work in progress. But as long as it is nourished without let-up, we can be sure that we will be doing things together with Christ even if there is always the possibility that we ourselves commit mistakes, since we can always misread God's will in spite of our best efforts.

The vigilance of love for others depends on our vigilance of love for God.*

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