Praying for the living and the dead PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 14 February 2016 14:32

REFLECTION

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

Someone recently posted on his FB a Twitter statement of Pope Francis some 2 years ago that immediately grabbed my attention.

“Are you angry with someone? Pray for that person. That is what Christian love is,” the Pope said.

I could not agree with the Pope more. Indeed, we have to pray for everyone, both living and dead, friends and foes alike. This is what is proper to us, because this is what Christ himself commanded us to do.

“Love your neighbor as yourself,” “love your enemies,” and “love one another as I have loved you” are marching orders of Christ  that leave us no room for doubt as to whom to love.

I remember that many years ago, when I had my first spiritual direction with a priest, that was also the advice given to me when I confided to him that I was harboring a grudge against someone. He told me to pray for that person, and the nice thing about it was that once I started praying for him, my attitude toward him changed. He became likeable.

We have to understand that Christian love knows no bounds as to whom to love, and as to what it takes, costs or involves. It can even go to the extent of offering one’s life for the cause of love.

This love begins and ends with prayer that would clearly indicate that one is keeping another person, whoever he or she may be, in mind and in the best of intentions.

Everything starts and ends there—in one’s mind and heart—and in between would be the exciting drama of the twists and turns of one’s heart as it tackles the demands of Christian love.

The moment we succeed in praying for that person, we would already have won the battle of Christian love, because that would indicate that we have chosen to obey God’s will over own will, our own preferences, biases and other idiosyncracies.

Loving is actually a choice between loving God, and because of God, we love everybody else, or we simply love ourselves, and because of that we get simply stuck with our own world, that is usually just our own make-believe world where many other things cannot fit.

This is what St. Augustine in his book “De Civitate Dei” articulated. In the end, he said, we have a choice between love of God or love of oneself.

We need to cultivate the attitude and habit of loving everyone, even those whom we meet casually in the street and whose names we would not know. Yes, even strangers and enemies!

In other words, when we pray for all, everyone becomes a brother and sister of ours, everyone becomes children of God deserving of love. The categories of strangers and enemies somehow would disappear, or at least would just have a very transitory status.

In other words, when we pray for all, we become more and more God-like as we are meant to be, since we have been created in his image and likeness.

Let’s remember that insofar as God is concerned, he already has given us everything to enable us to love everyone the way he himself loves all of us. We just have to avail ourselves of what God has given us—his word, his sacraments, his Church, and Christ himself, his very own Son whom we can always receive since he is making himself totally available and accessible to us.

Just imagine how the world would be if we have that love! And so, I think it is worthwhile to make a kind of massive campaign to remind everyone to love everybody else, irrespective of whatever human conditions and categories we may have.

We need to overcome the initial stage of awkwardness if not resistance. We just have to pick up the small practices of seeing to it that our mind is filled with people to pray for, especially when we are alone.

And when we go around, let’s cultivate the practice of simply praying or thinking and wishing everyone well as soon as we see them. We have to take the initiative, just like what Christ himself did and continue to do for us.

This way, we fill up our mind and heart with good things.

We preempt the unwelcome stirrings of our weaknesses and the many temptations around. To be sure, this way does not undermine, but rather fosters, our objectivity and capacity to make right judgments.

It converts us into authentic contemplatives in the middle of the world! God and us get in synch!