In the gospel, Christ faulted some leading Jews of that time for getting stuck with little duties but neglecting the big ones, straining the gnat but swallowing the camel. â€œWoe to you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites,â€ he said, â€œYou pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity.â€ (Mt 23,23)
We are familiar with the saying that â€œthe devil is in the details.â€ It refers to our tendency to be too concerned about the big thingsâ€”like the over-all or long-term goal, while paying little attention, if any at all, to the details to carry out that goal, as in not having plans nor the necessary attitude and skills to achieve the goal.
But the reverse can also happen. The devil can also be in the big things, in the sense that we can be too concerned about the little details, the practice and the routine, but practically forgetting the over-all picture, and especially the virtue of charity, the be-all and end-all. The gospel passage above precisely falls under this category.
The ideal, of course, is to give due attention to both the big and small things in any endeavor. And this can happen only when that dual love of God and neighbor is the motive of all our actions. God-love-neighbor should be both in the big and the small things in our life. It is what would make us attentive to the requirements of the small and big things in life, and see their organic relationship.
And so we need to constantly rectify our intentions, since very easily and frequently we can be overtaken by merely practical motives which in themselves are not bad, but which cannot stand on their own alone for long without being grounded on love for God and neighbor.
Obviously this ideal can seem to be too much for our human condition to bear, weakened as it is by our sins, defects, weaknesses and temptations. But we can always begin and begin again. If we have the necessary humility to acknowledge our downside, we can always manage somehow. As St. Paul said, â€œItâ€™s in my weakness that I am made strong.â€
That is why there is always a need for us to pause from time to time in order to meditate and examine ourselves whether we are giving due attention to these dual dimension of our life.
We have to be wary of the current trend to be taken over by a merely impulsive and reactive lifestyle that would deprive us of our need to pray, meditate, study and examine our conscience. These are the ones that would keep our proper bearing as we cruise through the vast and often tumultuous ocean of life.
In this, everyone should help to create the proper culture and lifestyle that is both contemplative and active. The family especially plays a very crucial role here, since it is mainly through it that children and the youth, the future of the world, get formed and equipped to face the challenges of an increasingly complicated world.
Parents should see to it their children learn the basics of praying, studying and working. They have to teach their children the fundamental virtues of order, of setting the proper priorities in life, of organizing their day well, of distinguishing between what is essential and what is incidental, what is of absolute value and what is simply of relative value.
We should see to it that we are continually imbuing our community and general culture with the proper values and virtues, alerting the schools, parishes, etc., to do their part. This is actually a never-ending task that would require of us a lot of patience and creativity, never afraid to tackle whatever problems and issues we may encounter along the way.
As we can see, we cannot anymore remain naÃ¯ve and indifferent from this challenge. We have to take the bull by the horns, always confident that we can do it, since in the end we have God with us. As St. Paul would put it in his Letter to the Romans: â€œIf God be for us, who is against us? He that spared not even his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how does he not also with him give us all things?â€ (8,31-32) (By Fr. Roy Cimagala)