By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“I do not claim that I have already succeeded or have already become perfect. I keep striving to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has already won me to himself… I really don’t think that I have already won it; the one thing I do, however, is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead ” — Philippians 3:12-13
Apostle Paul’s aforementioned statement for Christians in Philippi a long time ago is still a relevant point of reflections for us Christians in the Philippines at the present time even as we face the challenges of this New Year 2018.
Remembering the past
A new year brings us new challenges in life. Facing these challenges, as the aforementioned Biblical text would imply, is first and foremost to remember the past. And as we look back to the past, we come to realize that it is real, indeed. For some it was a horrible year due to thousands of killings related to illegal drugs. Series of calamities, both natural and human-made, visited our country that rendered death and destruction to many. In many parts of the world, bloody conflicts continue to persist even in the very place where Jesus the “Prince of Peace” was born!
I don’t believe it is God’s will that tragedies will come upon us. But I do believe that in every tragedy in life God is speaking to us, if only we are willing to listen.
There are times we don’t want to remember the past, especially if it is dark and gloomy, something that brought us painful experiences and great miseries in life. Hence, we want as much as possible to forget the past and dismiss it as an illusion, a nightmare that should be relegated into oblivion.
However, there are times when we have to take our past seriously, to study and learn from it, hoping to find some illumination on our present existence. Those who are studying the evils of our society have to take the pains of looking back into the unfolded drama of our historical past in order to understand our present realities. As Philosopher George Santayana onetime said, “Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it”.
Moreover, the past is not only real, it is also unchangeable; it is irrevocable. Hence, a popular quotation is right when it says, “I pass this way but once. Therefore, anything I can do or any kindness I can show I will do it now; for I shall not pass this way again.”
It is important to note that God requires our past. Apostle Paul keeps on telling how God looked into his past, how the Lord confronted him and provided new meaning and purpose into his life (cf. Gal.1:11-24).
God also looks into our past. And if our past has been a life of indifference and self-centeredness, the Lord would patiently remind us, “If you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake you will find it. Will you gain anything if you win the whole world but lose your life?”(Mt. 16:25-26).
Moreover, facing the challenges of this New Year 2018, as Apostle Paul’s aforementioned statement would imply, is to have an honest appraisal of ourselves. A serious self-examination would reveal to us our imperfections and shortcomings. We would be able to see our longings and dreams unfulfilled, goals and ambitions unattained. But at the same time, it would also unveil to us the joys and hopes of God’s redeeming grace.
Joy means that inner peace which passes all understanding, providing us courage and determination to stand firm on our faith, even in the face of trials, problems and difficulties. It is the same kind of joy and inner peace that empowered Apostle Paul to stand persecutions, so that even behind bars, he wrote to the Philippians, saying: “May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice… I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me” (Phil.4:4, 15). This is the same kind of joy and inner peace that sustained a friend behind bars during the Martial Law years, which made him realize that only those who know human weakness can truly forgive and restore a person.
The Buddhists have a beautiful practice when New Year comes. According to their traditions, human beings are afflicted with 108 kinds of greed. And so, from the midnight of December 31, the temple bell is rung 108 times. And as the people hear each gong, they are asked to get rid of their greed one by one in preparation for the New Year. By cleansing themselves in this manner, they are going back to the original purity, and start a new life once again.
Setting up a goal
Finally, facing the challenges of this New Year 2018, as Apostle Paul’s aforementioned statement would imply, is to set up a future goal. A meaningful life is a life with a definite purpose. The American civil rights activist, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., onetime said, “He who doesn’t know the thing he would die for is not fit to live”.
Our ultimate goal in life is to participate in the realization of God’s reign on earth as it is in heaven. To be involved in this divine drama of God’s saving act in the world is an enormous task, indeed. Responding to God’s call is like leaping into the great unknown. But God’s faithful promise is so great. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20). “The world will make you suffer. But be brave! I have defeated the world” (Jn.16:33).
Facing the challenges of this New Year 2018 is to move forward resolutely and decisively, ever looking to that time when God’s reign of peace and justice is truly established in our own lives, and in our life together as a people and as a nation.
Happy new year to everyone! # nordis.net