Always old and new

By: Fr. Roy Cimagala

THAT’S how the word of God, as recorded in the Gospel, can be described. It’s old since it comes from eternity, even before time started. It’s also new because being an eternal word, it will never grow old in human terms, becoming obsolete and irrelevant at a certain point. It will always give us something new. It can give us surprises, and even shockers.

We can never say that we already have all of God’s word in the bag. Not only little new things can arise from God’s word. Even huge new things can emerge. Thus, we have to be most careful to freeze the eternal dynamics of God’s word, as when we think that the doctrine, standards, criteria, laws, principles, etc., we so far have derived from God’s word cannot anymore be improved, deepened, enriched, updated, adapted.

We have to be wary of our tendency to get stuck with the status quo in our understanding and application of God’s word to our daily life. We have been amply warned that if we do not grow organically in our understanding of God’s word as the Spirit prompts us, our spiritual life will not only standstill. It will retrogress.

We should not forget that God’s word is always applicable to all possible conditions and situations of human life. It can tackle any problem, any issue, any challenge. That’s how powerful and full of wisdom God’s word is. There’s nothing in our life, no matter how difficult, how humanly impossible, that cannot be handled by God’s word.

Remember what the Letter to the Hebrews says about God’s word. “The word of God is living and active,” it says. “Sharper than any double-edged sword, it pierces even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and exposed before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (4,12-13)

We have to realize that while there are things that are essential and as such are not meant to change, there are also things that are not essential and are in constant change. This is the case of many elements in our different cultures and our different generations where changes are constantly occurring.

We, for example, cannot and should not indiscriminately apply God’s word on those in the Western culture in the same way as those in the Eastern culture. We cannot and should not consider or expect as identical the behavior of the young people during our grandparents’ time with that of the youth of today. God’s word should be applied on them in the way they are.

Otherwise, we would be no different from the scribes and Pharisees during Christ’s time who clung to their own ideas of what is right and wrong, and ignoring and even going against the very author of reality himself.

In all these differences, and sometimes conflicts, God’s word is always applicable. But we just have to find a way of how to apply it in the proper way without compromising what is essential init.

We cannot deny that identifying what goes into the essence of God’s word and what does not when assessing our human situations can be difficult. The tension in trying to put together the exclusivity of truth and the inclusivity of charity can be very daunting. That is why there is a great need for discernment, for which we have to do a lot of monitoring and dialoguing, praying and studying a lot, consulting, and a lot of etcetera.

This is where we have to make a lot of sacrifices, since as said earlier, we cannot remain in the status quo insofar as our understanding and application of God’s word to our varying conditions and situations are concerned.