10th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A
June 8, 2008

Readings: Hosea 6:3-6 / Rom 4:18-25 / Mt 9:9-13

There is no mistaking it ... Hope oozes out of every reading today, hope that is not mere wishful thinking; hope that is not just equivalent to Dale Carnegie’s “how to win friends and influence people” type of mentality; hope that is not based on just any nameless god, as Pope Benedict XVI puts it, but hope that is ultimately grounded on a God with a name, a God who revealed Himself in Jesus Christ His Son.

Paul Tillich wrote about this in itself ungrounded grounding of our “ultimate concern” many years ago. His writings have touched me deeply, a non-philosopher though I am. But the readings today are more than just the philosophical gibberish that is all I could muster. They are existential declarations of believers who knew whereof they spoke: Hosea, for one, who saw troubles beyond imagination, whose unfaithful wife abandoned him for somebody else, who knew what it was to suffer - and - forgive! Paul, who experienced “sweat and care and cumber; sorrows passing number.”

Hosea, who saw suffering first hand, literally begs his fellow believers: “What else can I do for you Ephraim and Judah? Your piety vanishes like the morning dew.” He whose faith and attachment to God never vanished despite the heavy dew of trials and tribulations, was taking his own people to task, and reminding them the blaring truth that we now also declare with hope: “to the upright I will show the saving power of God” (Response).

Paul, who met with all sorts of trials and sufferings including imprisonment, shipwrecks, and flagellations, can now speak to the Romans with confidence, upholding Abraham as supreme model: “he did not doubt God’s promise in unbelief; rather, he was fully convinced that what he had promised he was also able to do.”

This, indeed, is what the Gospel tells us today - the fulfillment of God’s promises of old, taking place in and through Jesus. The Alleluia verse introduces it for us: “The Lord sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, and to proclaim liberty to captives.”

This, indeed, is what the Gospel passage shows us - the fulfillment of this salvific mission unfolding, taking place, and becoming reality in Jesus’ ministry. He came, he declares, not to call the righteous, but sinners!

Sinners ... that word sounds all too familiar. Sinners ... that is what you and I are ... more than just seven times a day, which is the record of just men. Unjust and scheming as we are, surely, there’s more to our sinfulness than just this cute magic number. At the rate we in the Philippines have to live with all sorts of graft and corruption, in and out of government, where 21 per cent cuts seem to be saintly and tame, sin is an all too present reality everywhere we go.

Sin and sinfulness breed one thing among many - hopelessness. It takes the form of cynicism. It also assumes the form of resignation. “There is nothing we can do about it. It is just something we all need to learn to live with. Join them if you cannot beat them.” These are the “contours of hopelessness” that Robinson (2004) loves to speak about.

Today, the Good News is not just philosophical abstractions. It is here with us in concrete. Jesus sits down with sinners and tax collectors. And he even called one of them to be his close-in follower - Levi, who became Matthew. He was seen by overzealous Pharisees to be dining with sinners like Levi. But that did not mean he was dancing paltsy waltsy with the dishonest, the scheming, and the fabulously wealthy. He called them, like he called Matthew to task. He got up and followed Jesus. We all know that he never went back to his shady deals. He got up and followed! And Jesus was not at all going to where the stacks of gold were. He was on his way towards Jerusalem, towards certain death, towards Calvary!

There is hope for us. There is hope for the Philippines and all countries of the world. There is hope because there is ongoing salvation taking place in our midst. There, indeed, is hope despite the limitations that abound in our lives. How true and realistic our prayer today is, a prayer that is worth repeating here, as I end my reflections: “Raise us beyond the limits this world imposes, so that we may be free to love as Christ teaches and find our joy in your glory.” Called beyond limits ... that is what we Christians are. Hope, we said, is not just wishful thinking. It is not just passive waiting. Hope is something we do, something we make real. It is not just informative, but performative. For it is not groundless hoping, but being truly grounded in Jesus, who came, not to save the righteous, but sinners! Ooops ... that’s you and me!


Postmodernist said…

It's great to finally meet you! We are very enthusiastic to know that you're open to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite i.e. Tridentine Mass. We pray for more priests like you who are willing to answer the Holy Father's call to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice in accordance to his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. We also pray that you can assist us to offer the Mass through your Melchizedechian order of priesthood, and be our pastor and teacher here in the ParaƱaque area. Thank you and God Bless.

Instavrare Omnia In Christo,