I hear many people telling me that they are tired or that they want to give up the fight. “It has a been a long road. I don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t have the energy to fight anymore.” However, when asked what it is that they are willing to fight for, many just become too focused on what they have to do in order to get things done. As practical people, we often times end up being very focused on what needs to be done and how to do them instead of asking ourselves why those things are worth the trials. It is very easy to be focused on the struggles and obstacles along the way and losing sight of the final goal and destination. Nevertheless, St. Paul reminds us that:
Let us be real… There are just many things to do! No matter how much we try to get things done, more will be added to us by life. If we simply focus on what needs to be done and how to do them, it becomes very easy to be worried by the overwhelming needs to get things done. I remembered going to my spiritual director, telling him how much is expected of us from the seminary and from the professors. He listened with patience and returned with a simple statement: “Have you ever asked yourself — with all these things going on around you — why am I fighting this battle and is it worth fighting for?” He made me reflect on the primary mission and purpose instead of simply seeing how overwhelming things are around me. If we do not know what is important and why it is important, then we cannot prioritize in order to focus on what is necessary nor learn to save the energy and effort for the long run.
Our life is long. The journey is of far distance and requires a lot of efforts. Our vocation and its mission are a lifelong journey. It requires a lot of long-term planning as well as tenacity and perseverance. It has many ups and downs, different terrains and parts, unexpected turns and short outcomes, yet the beauties of the journey are often intermingled and hidden behind the rough patches and in plain sight. Therefore, it is important to not lose focus on the general, long-term, and grander mission. The journey is hard at times, and that is why it is important to remember what is important and is worth fighting for.
Second, even though it is challenging, these challenges make our journey adventurous and unique. Even though it is hard at times, our trials and storms on the journey save us from meaningless repetitions. They strengthen our endurance, deepen our sense of perseverance, and build up our tenacity. They form our character and tune our moral compass as our soul is purified just as gold is tested by fire. (cf. 1 Peter 1:7) God has taught me over and over again that perhaps what He is trying to teach me is not what I often expected or thought will happen. As a man and as a priest, I often want to solve or fix the problems in front of me, but often times, the Lord does not want me to be a problem solver but a father, a brother, a person, or an intercessor for those who are in front of me.
The substance of my priestly ministry, outside of my sacraments, is meeting with people. Through these meetings, I get to hear many beautiful stories, but also many hurts, disappointments, betrayals, doubts, and struggles in someone’s life. They are uplifting but also hard. At the end of the day, I am a human person as well. To truly listen, attentive, and be present to the person who is pouring out his or her heart also moves my own heart in gratitude and pain! Many times, I am so tempted to help the situations and fix the problems so they do not have to doubt, suffer, or question their life meanings and purposes, their trials, their sufferings, their hurts, or the existence of God. Yet, this is not something that I am called to do. It is so hard to resist my natural tendency and its temptations to be a fixer and solver!!! The important lesson that the Lord is trying to pervade is contrary and against any of our — especially my — natural instinct but it is so important to understand and know from the heart.
If we think about it, many times, the Lord wants us to understand and able to have a taste of His loving heart for the world so that our heart is moved to care, be present, and able to pray with and for the person in front of us. He wants to us go beyond our comfort zone, our prejudicial or natural tendencies, to focus on the importance of the human relationship instead of the cold, humanly-defective, and incomplete dependency on politics, social media, or technology thinking that we know everything that is provided by textual information. We can only care when we put faces behind our policies, personally connect with them when we see them face to face, open our heart when we spend the time to get to know who is in front of us and around us. To be able to listen, to care, to share, and to pray with and for others are what makes us humans, as brothers and sisters, especially as children of God. This is what I believe is important and what our world really need for this time and age.
We do not need more laws or policies, more righteous justifications, more revolutions, more trendy stuff, but truly the essential human factors that make us who we are as carers, holistic human beings, and people who can relate and be moved by others who are around us. Caring with compassion is what makes us humans. Compassion, with its Latin root, reminds us that we are given the ability to be able to “suffer with” the other person, and that requires genuine care, understanding, and personal efforts to get to know the who is in front of us and around us. Even when we cannot “do” something for the other person, we can still care for them in different ways. I have had people who walked away from our conversations or encounters still hurt, in doubt, in trouble, or not able to change their current situations because of many complex factors, and those hurt a lot — as a person and as a priest. Yet, I cannot let despair or the false sense of hopelessness come in and overtake my trust in God as if this encounter was just a coincidence, a meaningless or unproductive one. If I truly believe in divine providence, everything has to be planned to and given according to God’s will. Even though I cannot solve or be able to fix anything, I can choose to truly be present, listen, and spiritually care for the person — beginning with prayer. I have learned over the years to step back from being a fixer and solver in order to learn to be an intercessor, lifting people up in my own prayers so that they are never alone in their own life and faith journey.
Even if I cannot change anything or help the person in any way, I can always personally choose to care for him or her humanly speaking by being present and give the encounter my attentiveness, compassion, and respect, and spiritually speaking with my intercessory prayers for the person. Even though I cannot change the outcome, I can change my attitude, attentiveness, care, and compassion for each and every person that I encounter. Is it easy? No! Is it natural? No!!! Yet, it is an important lesson that I need to learn, relearn, and remind myself all the time. God does not call you and I to be revolutionary or effective in everything that we do or successful with every encounter; however, He does invite and ask that we be personal and caring in each and every one of them. This is what makes us human. This is what makes our world sensible and caring. This is what makes us brothers and sisters to one another. This is what makes us children of God. When we take the time to gift the gift of ourselves through caring respect, to pray and to recognize that He is in our midst, we will begin to recognize that important, long-lasting impacts begin with each and every person with each and every encounter.
Even in our own trials, struggles, and hardships, we are not alone. We are never alone because God is with us even though our senses might fail on us and our doubts clouded our mind. That is why in our trials, we can take comfort in the assistance and presence of one another who are brothers and sisters, pilgrims and sojourners on the way. We are never meant to be alone or have it all handled. He has given us the Church, called from different people, backgrounds, and diversity to become the spiritual family that cares and walks with one another. Therefore, let us not forget that and try to do all that we can to truly give ourselves and to help share His divine presence with each and every person, encounter, and relationship. As we walk down the road, take some time to look around, breathe in and embrace the journey. Do not be afraid! Do not let ourselves be too focused on what we need to do or how to do it, but why this journey is given to us with all its beauties and challenges. There are hidden beauties and blessings to be discovered, even in our own trials and hardships, for they make our journey adventurous and unique. Let us fix our eyes on God and reach out to others when we feel overtaken by the falsities of despair and doubts when we are too overwhelmed by the clouds and storms of life. Let us make a personal, conscientious, and free choice to care, love, respect, and be present to one another as we help each other along the way. This is what makes life beautiful and worth fighting for!
God bless you.