By Ronnie Caballero, BCBP Makati
During the holidays as I gaze at the belen and the humble cradle holding the image of the Baby Jesus, this scripture comes to mind. “All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Cor 3:18. I ask myself, Whose image do I bear in my life? Can others see Jesus in me? Can I see Jesus in me?
Looking closer at the Nativity Scene, I reflect: if not Jesus, than whose image do I see in myself? Am I like the shepherd, or Joseph, or one of the angels? Am I like one of the three kings, or wise men? Whose image do I bear in my life? Whose image do others see in me?
Some years ago, it was in the year 2000 if my memory serves me right, while on a visit to our BCBP brothers and sisters in Legazpi, Albay, I was “volunteered” as one of the guests on a local TV broadcast of the Archdiocese of Legazpi-sponsored show “The Jubilee of Businessmen”. Since I had never been on TV before, I was nervous because of the chosen topic for discussion, “The Christian and His Money – Focus: Stewardship”.
My worry was not so much about what to say because we have these teachings in the BCBP, but because to say it on TV was something else. It was almost as if the Lord himself were asking me for an accounting of my faith learning, of my stewardship. This was a test of being able to “Walk My Talk”. I remember taking comfort in God’s word that week in Mark 12:16. When looking upon the coins, Christ said, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied to him, “Cesar’s.” At that Jesus said to them, “Give to Cesar what is Cesar’s and give to God what is God’s.” Their amazement at him knew no bounds.
To me at that time the message was clear: We are in the image and likeness of God – therefore, we must give our very selves – our heart and soul to God – because we belong to Him! And now in this Christmas season, the Lord is reminding me of this truth – that I am being transformed into the image and likeness of God.
But truth hurts and the sword of the Spirit cuts both ways. The Spirit rebukes the evil and their ways but it prunes and disciplines the righteous as well. Which is more painful? Either way, I would say, offhand. But in reality as we know it in the Brotherhood the way of the righteous, many times, is the more painful.
The evil upon hearing the sharpest rebuke may just shrug their shoulders and literally laugh their way to the bank. Dr. Scott Hahn in one of his lectures on EWTN said, “The worst punishment God could give for your sin is to let you enjoy it!” Wow, this really floored me! Yes, the worst is for God to allow you to enjoy your sin because that makes it doubly difficult to be convicted and give it up. Whatever form your sin may take, whether it be an attractive, ‘caring’ mistress, a regular payola envelope, a Rolex watch for looking the other way in overpriced government projects, the immaculate golf greens of your country club courtesy of your smuggling operations, a shiny BMW limousine or an elegant Lincoln Navigator from your misdeclared company taxes, sacks of money in your trunk from ‘jueteng’ operations, a Mediterranean-style mansion in Ayala Alabang from your insider trading gains, bulging Swiss accounts from your shabu operations, etc., etc., all without exception will have an irresistible pull DOWNWARDS in case you are not looking. But nonetheless, YOU WILL DEFINITELY ENJOY THE RIDE! However exciting the ride, the destination will be that sea of fire surrounded by the endless gnashing of teeth. And when you are there, guess whose image you will bear?!
In our BCBP action group meetings, assemblies and fellowships it is a common experience to hear the lament of brothers and sisters groaning under the process of God’s pruning. Their dilemma would range from the reduced profits or imminent company closure because of the filing of the correct taxes, payment of just wages or even just the minimum wage, agonizing how to downsize or remove employees, how to keep operating at a loss and keeping employees when one’s bank balance is low, whether to pay the bribe to the BIR official in order to keep operating, etc., etc. – all of these represent the struggle of the righteous towards holiness, towards becoming the image and likeness of God.
One priest told me in the confessional that what is important is that we maintain the struggle even though we may fall. What matters is our determination to rise up again.
I once heard the tale of a man who was visited by an angel. He was simply asked to keep on rolling this huge boulder towards the peak of a steep hill. Whenever his strength would desert him, he would simply step aside and watch the boulder roll down. “How long must I do this?” asked the man. “Just keep on doing it until I tell you to stop,” said the angel. Days passed. Weeks passed. Months passed. The man faithfully carried out the seeming nonsensical task.
One day the angel came by and told him to stop. “What was the purpose of this whole exercise?” the man inquired. “See how strong and sinewy you have become. Your character has been molded from the work and the determination under the sun. Now you are ready for God’s work!” replied the angel.
Without the right spiritual muscles, we will not be able to budge the boulder of corruption and immorality in the marketplace, but daily we must continue to struggle. Even though we may fall, we must be ready to stand up to face more of the same. We must struggle to:
even if others are not,
even if others will not,
even if others cannot.
Not made easier by the ridicule and incredulous stares of co-workers and co-investors, we must bravely carve out our holiness, a product of our leap in faith. Even though we may be voted down in the board rooms and sneered at by the BIR examiner, we must relentlessly push. For one day we will gain the strength to push all the way to the peak and know for sure whose image we bear – THE IMAGE AND LIKENESS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST!