IN a sense, our life can be described as having to do with frontiers and front lines. As something dynamic that needs to develop and grow, our life cannot avoid having to discover and explore new frontiers as well to guard and defend the front lines.
We cannot afford to be complacent and get stuck in a certain level of life. We need to grow and to be better always in a lifelong process that knows no limit until death intervenes.
We can never say that we already have enough in our life. That attitude would clearly constitute a kind of self-satisfaction which is the antithesis of man’s purpose of life as taught to us by our Christian faith.
At the same time, we need to protect and defend whatever we have gained and accomplished in our life. And in case we slide back, we need to recover the lost ground.
Our life has to do with frontiers because we are always in a quest toward human and Christian maturity, fulfillment and perfection. And the ultimate frontier to discover is heaven which, in a letter of St. Paul, is described as where “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor 2,9)
In another part of the gospel, we can say that heaven as the final frontier is when God appears to us and we become fully identified with him. St. John describes this in these words: “when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him just as he is.” (1 Jn 3,2)
Before we reach that final frontier, we have to open many subordinate frontiers that will always need thorough exploration until we can master them. These frontiers are the many virtues that we have to acquire to make ourselves more and more like God.
At the same time, in our pursuit for new frontiers we need to take care of the front lines where we have to deal with hitches, roadblocks, setbacks and open enemies whose purpose is precisely to keep us from reaching our ultimate goal.
These front lines are endless, because any mastery we can attain in a particular frontier will always be tenuous, at best. It’s a mastery that cannot be definitive, although a high level of stability can be reached, after so much effort is exerted on our part and we correspond to the grace that God always offers us. It cannot be definitive because we always have to contend with our human weakness, the temptations and our sinfulness.
Besides, a front line that has been conquered often mutates into another front line. We may, for example, have attained a certain level of humility at one point, but another strain of vanity and conceit can emerge in a subtle way. This is true in all other virtues. Their weeds that can look like the real plants can often sprout nearby.
Our Christian faith tells us that we have to contend with our own wounded flesh, the world and the devil. In the words of St. John, the world contains nothing other than “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1 Jn 2,16)
Insofar as our wounded flesh is concerned, we have to deal with what St. Paul termed as the works of the flesh: “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the life.” (Gal 5,19-21)
And insofar as the devil is concerned, St. Paul warned us that we are ranged against powerful enemies. “Not only do we wrestle against our flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph 6,12)
That’s why we can never think that we can be totally at peace in the world. We somehow have to engage in a lifelong warfare, and thus learn how to guard, defend and do spiritual combat in the front lines of our life.
Peace, relative peace here on earth, as one saint put it, is a result of war. It can never come without some struggle. We just have to feel at home with this fact of life and cultivate the necessary skills.
We should not get nervous at the prospect of this dual challenge of having to always break new frontiers and to fight in the front lines. For, as St. Paul told us, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom 8,31)
By Fr. Roy Cimagala