THAT’S WHAT the readings of the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, reminds us of. From the Book of Job, we are already warned that our life here on earth is some kind of a warfare. (cfr. 7,1) And St. Paul in the Second Reading also tells us that we have to learn to be “all things to all men to save all.” (1 Cor 9,22) That’s definitely a tall order, given the way we are.

And Christ himself showed us how our life—with all its challenges, difficulties and dangers—can and should be. In spite of the many good things he already was doing, many more people with great needs came to him asking for help. (cfr. Mk 1,29-39) That he had a very complicated life is indeed an understatement.

All of us, but especially priests and others in similar position, should be tough and strong. We need to be tough because aside from bearing our own personal burdens, from contending with our own personal demons, we also have to bear the burdens of the others. It is no joke to serve like the receptacle of the problems of the others and to find ways to help them.

Since we priests, for example, usually hear confessions and give counseling and spiritual direction to others, we cannot help but be affected somehow by what we hear. And the problems of some people can be so heavy and heart-wrenching that we end up exhausted, practically emptied of any strength and energy.

The worst part is what to say as advice and how to say it. It indeed is a big challenge to be able to present the mercy and love of God when the people’s problems seem to have no human solution or when their miseries and weaknesses seem to be persistent and insurmountable despite their efforts.

In these cases, the challenge is how to present God’s love in such a way that his love and mercy is seen as soothing, acceptable and meaningful. The challenge is how to present God’s love such that even if pain and suffering are unavoidable, people can see that God’s love takes care of everything. They would realize that what they cannot solve, God will always solve it for them in his own mysterious ways.

There is no doubt that a lot of spiritual and supernatural means are needed here. We have to pray that the people’s faith gets stirred and enlivened, that their hope gets reaffirmed and strengthened, that their love for God gets enkindled.

Aside from prayer, a lot of sacrifices are also needed. Prayer and sacrifices vitally unite and identify us with Christ who is the one to give us all the strength and light we need. Let’s remember what St. Paul said in this regard: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4,13)

Yes, it’s only with Christ and in him that we priests can truly be tough and strong as we should be as we carry out our ministry of helping people in their spiritual and moral life that can be filled with all sorts of problems and challenges.

Our toughness should be the toughness of Christ who was and continues to be willing to bear all the problems of men, and goes all the way to offer his life for the salvation of men. By Fr. Roy Cimagala (EV Mail Jan. 29-Feb. 4, 2024 issue)