REFLECTION: Fidelity and the changing world PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 11 November 2014 10:54

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

 

We need to understand that fidelity to any commitment—whether to marriage and family, or a company, or an organization, and especially to a charism and vocation—has to contend with the obvious fact of life that there is also change.

Life is in a constant flux, and our sense of fidelity and commitment should know how to cope with this reality without getting lost.

Fidelity should not just be a matter of blind adherence to certain principles and promises. It has to be understood in a dynamic way that requires constant vigilance and monitoring of new developments, a continuing process of renewal and purification, of adjusting and adapting, of loosening certain things while tightening the essentials.

Of course, when we talk about fidelity we refer primarily to something that should not change. We should be very clear about what would comprise as essential and necessary in any commitment, and what would simply be incidental. The former should be held permanently no matter what, while the latter may or even should change.

Even in the matter of fidelity and commitment to a certain charism, we have to be most discerning about what is essential in it and what is not. That’s because no matter how spiritual and supernatural it is, when it impacts into our life, it can’t help but be received in human terms that always can stand further deepening and purifying.

This is not to mention that later on, the same commitment is understood, expressed and lived in different ways, depending on all kinds of circumstances, factors and conditions we are all subject to.

For example, the same charism may be lived differently according to the different cultures of the people involved, and other factors like the social environment, historical background, not to mention, personal circumstances, etc.

A charism in the 16th century, one that has developed into a kind of structure through the years, would look different now than when it was first received. It’s still the same charism, but it certainly has assumed many layers of conditionings that are supposed to strengthen it, not weaken it. Fidelity to it does not mean living it the way it was lived in the 16th century.

For it to survive, any charism has to deal always with the flowing changes of the world. It should not be afraid of the world, taken the way it is, warts and all, for it is there where God is talking to them.

Otherwise, that charism can deteriorate into an enclosed, introverted, pharisaical system, detached from God who also speaks to us through the things of the world, and sooner and later would be saddled with all sorts of legalisms, traditionalism and bureaucracy, and even exuding a repulsive holier-than-thou aura.

There’s a certain unity involved in being faithful to a commitment, but a unity that is not uniformity. There’s also a certain exclusivity involved in any commitment, but one that that is open to the things of the world.

This distinction is crucial, and everything should be done to make that distinction clear, because it is very easy for us to confuse them.

And when we confuse them, we infringe on the legitimate freedom of the people involved, and the charisms and spiritualities would sooner or later become irrelevant and useless. They would lose their vitality.

The Church itself, born in a very dramatic way on Pentecost, has to undergo all kinds of changes without compromising its essence of being the Mystical Body of Christ, the People of God. It has to contend with all kinds of historical developments.

Its body of doctrine has grown tremendously. Its attitude to the ethos of the different ages of its history has also changed accordingly. While remaining the same and holy because of Christ who is its head, its changeable aspects undeniably have gone through continuing renewals, purifications and corrections.

Thus, any interest in pursuing and living fidelity has to entail a continuing clarification of what is essential and what is not. This will require nothing less than a living contact with God who is the quintessence of fidelity in a changing world. It certainly would not be enough to rely solely on some philosophy or ideology.

It would be wrong and dangerous either to focus simply on the essential core of the commitment, the subject of fidelity, without making reference to the changing circumstances, or vice-versa, to focus exclusively on the changing circumstances without clarifying the essential core.

Both the essential and the incidentals, the permanent and the changeable have to be continually clarified for fidelity to any commitment to be achieved.