June 1, 2008
Catholic Homily/Sunday Reflection
Readings: Dt 11:18. 26-28,32 / Rom 3:21-25, 28 / Mt 7:21-27
N.B. I am posting well in advance these reflections and homilies as I am not too sure I will have the time and the opportunity to do any posting from May 9 – June 3, 2008.
Reading 1 (Dt 11:18, 26-28, 32)
Moses told the people, “Take these words of mine into your heart and soul. Bind them at your wrist as a sign, and let them be a pendant on your forehead. “I set before you here, this day, a blessing and a curse: a blessing for obeying the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin on you today; a curse if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, but turn aside from the way I ordain for you today, to follow other gods, whom you have not known.”
Responsorial Psalm (Ps 31:2-3, 3-4, 17, 25)
R. (3b) Lord, be my rock of safety.
In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me,
incline your ear to me,
make haste to deliver me!
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your kindness.
Take courage and be stouthearted,
all you who hope in the LORD.
Reading II (Rom 3:21-25, 28)
Brothers and sisters, now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, though testified to by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood. For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
Gospel (Mt 7:21-27)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?
Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’
Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”
BUILDING ON ROCK, NOT ON SAND
As I write, there is that nagging feeling that I cannot ignore, nor gloss over what tens of thousands of people in Myanmar are undergoing right these days in the horrific aftermath of the tropical cyclone that devastated a big swath of the country over the last weekend (the first week of May, 2008). Neither can I ignore the worsening scenario of the growing menace – and – reality, of the food insecurity all over the world. From where I sit, in prosperous USA, I am apprised of the doubling prices of rice, the unabated rise in the price of oil and its related products, and the disturbing fact that even in big wholesale stores, there now is a limit imposed on everyone to buy only a maximum of two 50 pound bags of rice per customer.
As I write, I am reminded of what Peter Senge so wisely said more than 14 years ago: “The solutions of today are the problems of tomorrow.”
We postmoderns have been a little too sold out to the so-called magic of management gurus and management wisdom. We have taken the principles of scientific thinking, and management principles whosesale, that is, lock, stock, and barrel. We have fallen for the easy solutions that come from very logical and cogent-sounding reasoning that really is basically an offshoot of too much reliance on science and technology.
Whilst I have no axes to grind with science, neither with management, nor with technology per se, (I use them all, having been in leadership myself, too, and being a therapist and counselor), I would like to think that Pope Benedict XVI is right when he referred to concepts like “lesser hopes and greater hopes.” At the risk of trivializing what the Pope alludes to, I personally think that we postmoderns have gotten it all wrong in pinning all our lesser hopes to science, technology, and so called progress and development. Elaine Robinson (2004) even speaks of the same tendency as really nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else but part of what she calls the “contours of hopelessness.” Hopelessness, she says, surrounds us like the air we breathe, and part of these emerging contours is an over-reliance on what science and technology can offer.
So what did science tell us over the past decades? In our desire to fuel our desire for more and more, we needed more fuels –fossil fuels and the craze now all over the world – the mad rush for “bio-fuels.” Acres upon acres of rain forests are being cut down in the Amazon, and beyond, to be transformed into huge plantations of corn, not for human consumption, but to be transformed into ethanol. And what did science tell us was going to be the benefit of all this? We need bio fuels to fuel our technology that feeds the cows that, in turn, feed a hamburger-hungry world. We need bio-fuels to make the engine of production all over the world run – to satiate the hunger and thirst of a consumerist society for more and more creature comforts and the desire for more and more luxury and ease.
All this sounds cogent. All this seems logical. All this calls for solutions. But as Senge wisely prophesied in the early 90s, the solutions of today are the problems of tomorrow.
We beg the Lord today to be our rock of safety (Responsorial Psalm). We are reminded today about how God sets before us a blessing and a curse. And the blessing, mind you, has to do with obeying the commandments of the Lord, instead of turning away from God and turning to other false gods.
We are therefore, faced with the reality of the need for us to make choices – choices that are life-giving, ultimately, instead of choices that are life disabling. Our Opening Prayer would have us beg from the Lord, “Keep us from danger and provide for all our needs.” Maybe we need to think about the dangers that we heap upon ourselves, the dangers what we keep on producing in our lives and in our society that ultimately destroy the world as God knows it, as God has created it, and as God has willed it to be from the very beginning. One wonders whether in our over reliance on science and technology, we have unwittingly destroyed the very world that is the source of what God provides for us “in all our needs.”
The call of “hamburgerization” or what one author aptly calls the “Mcdonaldization” of society is perhaps something we need to take a second look at, given the contribution the whole process makes toward global warming. Perhaps, we need to take a second look at what we hear the Lord tells us today: “Take these words of mine into your heart and soul. Bind them at your wrist as a sign, and let them be a pendant on your forehead.”
The handwritings seem to be very clearly emblazoned on the walls. There is no turning back the clocks of time. The food insecurity that we experience right now is one such handwriting that needs to be decoded. Maybe we need to pay attention more to what the Lord says, rather than what scientists, economists, and the gurus of globalization and postmodernity say.
The voice of globalization is one example, among many. For far too long, countries tried to join the bandwagon of consumerism. Everybody thought of the same thing – import food when food is lacking. But every country thought of doing the same. Nobody minded the store. People went their merry way thinking they could just buy food from other countries. But the fact is that all over the world, farmers stopped farming; food producers stopped producing food – except those staples that the world considered as such: beef (hamburger), highly processed and refined foods, like flour, etc. … We woke up one day to the realization that the drought in Australia, the floods in Vietnam, the cyclones that attacked Bangladesh, Myanmar, and elsewhere, has veritably put the whole process of food production to a halt.
We need to listen to the beatings of a different drummer. We need to listen to the voice of him who can lead us to liberation – the same voice that Moses and the Israelites of old listened to. “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.”
The solutions of today are the problems of tomorrow … Very true, indeed … especially if the house we build, the solutions we work for, are not exactly those that are based on solid rock, but on sand.
Our closing prayer today shows us the way. We cannot afford to pay lip service alone to what Pope Benedict XVI calls merely “informative” hope. We need “performative” hope to lead us through the welter of these confusing times and days. “Guide us with your Spirit that we may honor you not only with our lips, but also with the lives we lead, and so enter your kingdom. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.”
May 8, 2008