REFLECTION: The God of surprises, etcetera PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 22 October 2014 11:43

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

 

Pope Francis recently introduced to our Church vocabulary the expression, God of surprises. That’s his way of warning all of us to avoid the pitfall of the Pharisees and scribes of old who were so trapped in their own religious traditions that they failed to recognize the Messiah when finally he came and stood right before them.

We have to heed this warning seriously because what happened to the Pharisees and scribes can also happen to us who, perhaps with good intentions, can enclose ourselves in a system that would already be insensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

The power of God and the ways of the Holy Spirit can never be contained in purely human categories, no matter how thoroughly and brilliantly studied these categories are made. God always exceeds our human powers.

We need to be familiar with the phenomenon of cloying that can desensitize us when something that is originally good becomes too excessive that we become narrow-minded, one-track-minded, complacent, obsessed, addicted and intolerant toward those who may not have similar attitudes and ways as we do.

This tendency toward getting cloyed can usually afflict the so-called “good people” who in their desire to be good, holy, pious and correct can become judgmental and rigid in their ways.

Their ‘goodness’ can lead them to become conceited, and therefore blinded by their own lights. Humility, self-abasement, self-emptying that was personified in Christ is always a necessity for all of us. It’s what enables us to see things objectively, and to discern more clearly and follow more promptly the will of God from moment to moment.

One may enjoy a particular charism and follow a certain spirituality, but he should always be open to others with different charisms and spiritualities. Let’s always be wary of the danger of self-righteousness that can be so intoxicating we can think we are heading toward heaven when it’s hell that we reach instead.

In fact, we are all asked to be kind, compassionate, understanding and merciful to everyone to the point that we fulfill what Christ himself told us about loving our enemies. God is the God of everyone and of everything. He is the God of what we consider as conservatives and liberals, the saintly and the sinful, etc.

To be sure, this God of surprises does not mean that now everything will just be fine and ok. The God of surprises is not a God of anything-goes, a God of free-for-all. He is also a God of fidelity, of tradition, of commandments and doctrine, of continuity. His surprises never negate but rather purify and enrich our fidelity, our traditions.

He is also a God of continuing mystery, of innovation, of deepening, of new challenges. He is a God who will demand of us continuing conversion, renewal and spiritual growth that would require constant struggle, adjusting, adapting. In short, he is a God of a continuing etcetera, a God who is both very strict and very lenient.

We have to understand that what we know about God and his ways, which already is a lot, is nothing compared to what we don’t know yet about him. The certainty we have in our knowledge about God is never a static, frozen one. It’s a living, dynamic one that continues to demand more things from us.

It’s true that God in Christ has already given us the fullness of his revelation. In a sense, there’s nothing new to be discovered. But it’s a revelation that continues to remain a mystery, requiring a continuing deepening and conversion on our part.

We can and should never feel contented with the level of knowledge about God and piety in spiritual life we may be enjoying at the moment. That would spell complacency for us, a kind of slow death and sweet poison to our spiritual life.

To this tendency we have to react strongly by always praying more, offering more sacrifices, waging interior struggle and conquering new frontiers in our spiritual life, being more faithful to our commitments and more discerning of the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

We should never say we are already giving enough to God and to others. In our spiritual life, there’s never anything enough that we can do. God would continue to ask for more. We have to constantly ask, Lord, what more do you want me to know, to do and to be?

We have to learn to play the game God is playing with us. It’s not so much a matter of scoring points as of following Christ closely wherever the Holy Spirit leads us.