VIEWS: Personal but not individualistic By Fr. Roy Cimagala (via Bukidnon News with permission from the author)

WE need to distinguish between what a person is and what an individual is. This distinction is crucial, since it will guide us to live our life properly. What attitudes to develop, how to behave, how to react as we should, would depend on our understanding of this distinction.

 

For sure, a person is an individual in the sense that he is one and quite unique. But he is much more than just an individual. He is not just a quantity.

 

A point in the Catechism of the Catholic Church says something relevant. “Being in the image of God, the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone.” (357)

 

The Catechism explains further, shedding light on the difference between a something and a someone.

 

The human person who is a someone and not just a something is “capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons.

 

“And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead.”

 

This doctrine is important because it tells us about a fundamental and inalienable truth about ourselves. And we have to do everything to uphold it, develop it to the max, drawing all the practical consequences and implications from it, and protect and defend it.

 

These days, with all the confusion around, not to mention the clear trend to downgrade our dignity as persons, the duty to understand and uphold this doctrine, protect and defend it, has become urgent. It is in great need to be taught to the four winds.

 

One essential element of a person is that he is always in relation with God, his Creator, and with others. He is never alone. He should not be, though he can choose to be. And that is the problem we all have.

 

We have to understand that we become more and more of a person the more we develop these relationships, according to the law given to us by our Creator. And this law is articulated first in the natural moral law enshrined in the Ten Commandments, and later in the teachings of Christ who is the fullness of the revelation of God, our Creator, to us.

 

In other words, we should all strive to be always personal, and never be individualistic. Even when we are alone physically, our mind and heart, our intelligence and will, which are the spiritual faculties given to us and which make us God’s image and likeness, should always be engaged with God and with others.

 

That is why, these days there’s a lot of call for transparency which I view as a reaction to our strong tendency to be by ourselves, prone to playing all sorts of games and tricks. It has led many of us to such anomalies as corruption, deception, laziness, complacency, etc.

 

In fact, it’s when we cut ourselves off from God and from others that we become easy prey to the varying forms of the capital sins: pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony and sloth.

 

Pride alone has countless manifestations, often subtle and very insidious. There is intellectual pride, for example, that afflicts many of our bright minds who confine their intelligence to their own will, if not to their own passions and emotions, alienating themselves from the ultimate and permanent source of truth who is God.

 

It’s this intellectual pride that sets the world in an orbit entirely on its own, leading us to increasingly precarious situations. What’s happening nowadays in the more developed Western countries where a crisis of seismic proportion is gathering, is testament to this pride-induced fragility.

 

Much of their culture considers leadership as domination instead of as service. Authority becomes a tool of control instead of a sharing in God’s power and love and everything related to it—justice, mercy, peace and order, solidarity, etc.

 

Obedience is seen as absence of freedom, while civil disobedience, just a step short of anarchy, now appears as the sole expression of freedom. Discipline and sacrifice are completely deprived of any positive value, while spontaneity and self-assertion seem to have no danger at all.

 

We need to revitalize our sense of person, and overcome the tendency to plunge to individualism, so we can get properly grounded, engaged and oriented. We need to look closely at how we are thinking and willing all throughout the day. Are we with God and others, or just by ourselves?

 

(Fr. Roy Cimagala is the chaplain of the Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise (CITE) in Talamban, Cebu City. Reach the author through email: roycimagala@gmail.com)

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