Catholic Homily / Sunday Reflection

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

October 11, 2009

Not all that glitters is gold … That much we were told … ever since we were kids in school. Too bad, too many of us go by the standard of what is readily visible and palpable. Today the first reading from the Book of Wisdom offers us a totally different view … something that represents the total reverse of what material man usually holds on to. “I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne.”

In our days and times, we know what we want … or so we think. The recent massive floods in Metro Manila are a testament to this. We think we know what we want – more comfortable and spacious homes, more comfort, ease, and convenience, more votes from what politicians call “constituents.” Real estate developers catered to what people think they want. They pampered them with huge palatial homes. And this, they did by reclaiming for them the waterways, streams, and creeks that used to be channels of nature’s bounty – rainwater that would come and bless the fertile plains as we knew them way back … in Cainta, in Marikina, in Pasig, from the beautiful undulating hills and mountains of Antipolo, Tanay, and Montalban (Rodriguez) in the province of Rizal.

Politicians know what they want … rich votes and the undying loyalty of “constituents” herded in to the metropolitan centers to guarantee them victory during elections. People in and out of government know what they want – quick bucks to tide them over and elevate them to a standard of living enough for them “to keep up with the Ayalas” (the equivalent of the Joneses). In the process, they close one eye or both eyes to what they see – hordes of the poor from rural areas, reclaiming what belongs to all – the esteros, the waterways, rivers, and streams, and turning them into cramped and sub-human dwellings, to become cannon fodder to the big guns of globalization, and the so-called march toward progress.

Big media outfits know what they want … ratings that would outdo the opposing network … the power to choose and seat kings and queens on thrones … even if it means holding on to relief goods if it means getting maximum exposure for later when the idolized actors and actresses would be available for the cameras to start grinding and whirring.

We all know what we want … comfort and ease at all costs … like the ease brought about by cutesy plastic bags that do not soil us, packaging that does not make us smell like fish and stuff, bags that make us feel like we’ve been to Rustan’s (the equivalent of Macy’s), when in fact, we have just been to the wet market in Baclaran.

We know what we want … greatness minus the grease and the grime … glory minus the guts, gain minus the pain … quick money by throwing all self-respect to the winds, and making a shot for instant stardom, courtesy of inane lunchtime shows that progressively dehumanize us, without really trying hard!

We know what we want … and what we want may not be wisdom, but the scepter and the throne.

Yes … the massive floods are a testament to a culture of corruption, a culture of death, a culture that ascribes the highest value to anything that approximates the scepter and the throne.

In such a culture, all we want is to be filled. Period … Full and up to the neck with everything that glitters – preferably gold, real gold, not fancy stuff.

Today, we could use a reminder from the Lord: “Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!”

The massive floods are a sign for us … as it was during the time of Noah. We all know what that story really refers to – a calling to mind of the original covenant forged between God and Adam and Eve. All of creation was meant to be used by Adam and Eve … used, not abused. And so far, all humanity has been doing since curiosity and disobedience took the better of them, was abuse creation. Yes … abuse it by turning natural waterways into posh subdivisions that make for greater ease, comfort, and privacy. Yes … abuse it by living like as if there were no tomorrow, like as if we had all the mountains in the world to level and turn into golf courses and luxurious dwellings hanging on mountainsides, perched precariously on cliffs that once were lush and green, and grandiose forests that kept water where it should be – soaked up in rainforests that cascade down nicely and safely in picturesque waterfalls and reserved in watersheds.

We thought we knew God’s Word … “living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.”

We need to know in earnest … not just think like we knew. And for us to really know, we need to ask. We need to ask the Lord today, not tomorrow: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” But more than just asking, we need to listen, not recite platitudes. We need to do, not just discuss with the Lord, as the young man did: “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.”

Debates and discussions won’t clinch it. More scientific reports and voluminous reflections won’t do. The time to act is now. And the place to do is here. And it starts with a look of love from the Lord, who now looks at all the millions of suffering Filipinos with love, as He looked with love at the young man who discussed theological issues with him. But doing theology goes far beyond speaking about God. It is speaking in God’s name, speaking on God’s behalf, and taking up the cudgels for God and His beloved suffering people.

After the waters will have subsided, there will be a lot of postmortems and a whole lot more of discussions. All those who know what they want – the logs and the trees up on mountain fastnesses – will be able to quote scientific studies to prove to all and sundry that they HAVE to CUT DOWN trees! All those who know what they want – the gold, the copper, the silver and all that glitters – will be able to present scientific reports that tell them that MINING ought to be liberalized, that the famous Mining Industry of Imelda and her cohorts, ought to be resurrected from the dead!

The Lord looked lovingly at the kid who asked, but, who, unfortunately, was not ready to listen (ob-audire, the root of obedience, is from the root word “audire” which means to listen, to hear!) … “You are not far from the Kingdom of heaven.”

We are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven … this is true. But it is not a question of being near or far. It is ultimately a question of trying to get there. We are called to get there … together!

And now, thanks to Peter, we know what this entails. We now know what trying to get to heaven translates into … and I didn’t say fun, frolic, ease, comfort, and everything that glitters …

Take it from Him who calls us to life – life in its fullness … “There is no one who has given up house of father or children or lands for my sake and for the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”