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Thursday, February 26, 2009


Catholic Homily/Sunday Reflections
1st Sunday of Lent(B)
March 1, 2009

There always seems to be something timely and current whenever we hear God’s Word. God’s Word always convicts us, confronts us, and engages us in a task that is concrete, here and now. Thre is simply no skirting around it, no deying, no running away from it. Today, we are told about chaos, confusion, wilderness, flood, sin, wild beasts, desert, temptation, and arrest, on the one hand. But we also hear about a covenant, about a promise, about inclusiveness. We are told about all creatures as being part of this inclusive promise from God, no one excluded. Absolutely!

The promise from God was given in the heels of sin-induced destruction by flood. But as the creatures saved in the ark filed out into dry land, God, in His mercy promised a new covenant to be symbolized by the rainbow. Not only did God promise no more flood to destroy all mortal beings. He also included “every living creature” in this promised new covenant.

We are face to face with God’s all inclusive love for His creation, including, and most especially, us human beings.

Human beings must be the most difficult to deal with, if we think and speak of God in human terms. We hear Him in today’s first reading, in lovely anthropomorphism, literally begging Mr. Noah and his erstwhile shipload of the saved: “See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you: all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals that were with you and came out of the ark. I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of the flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.”

Too bad, we humans do not seem to learn very well. We seem to be hearing portions of God’s Word that suits our needs and tastes, to the total disregard of those that we do not feel like accepting. We know all about the phenomenon called selective listening. In the cognitive maps that we all have deep in our grey matter, we filter out those that do not jibe with our mental map of reality, of our expectations, of our needs and desires. We filter out those portions and snippets of reality that make us move out of our comfort zones, that make us uncomfortable and uneasy. Where God speaks of all-encompassing love, we talk of boundaries and limits and delimitations. The world now is rife with such artificial boundaries. Born-again christians endlessly talk about the “few and the chosen” who will be taken up during the moment of rapture, the second coming of the Messiah. Other christian denominations endlessly preach about their own exclusive group, numbering about 144,000, literally lifted from the apocalyptic and highly symbolic language of the book of Revelation, who will get to see salvation in the end times. The world is divided into freedom-loving (translate: those who are with America) and terroristic brigands (read: those who do not side with American economic interests). There are those whose lifetime goal is to destroy the world economy headed by the great superpowers. There are those who confuse religious issues with political and economic issues and who are dead-set on going to war in the name of God! Our very own country is made up of disparate groupings each one with its own political and economic agenda. Political office, for example, is something no poor man can ever hope to have. Politics and economics are some kind of an old-boys’ club, a private enclave of those who have money to burn.

God speaks today of a promise to ALL… all living creatures, all that sustain these living creatures in the world that God has created, in a world that is God’s perfect handiwork. But humans, supposedly the best of the lot, the highest and most dignified of all, seem unable to understand the will of God. We have understood so well one line of Genesis: Be masters of all of creation! Indeed, we have not only mastered creation. We have not only used it to our maximum benefit. We have abused it. And we have been in the business of abusing creation and all that is below us in dignity with impunity for so long. Why, humans even abuse fellow humans! We even do such gross acts of inhumanity to one another. Who has invented weapons of mass destruction but us human beings? Who has designed all the intricate and deadly plans for war but us human beings? Who has left out and manipulated so many ignorant and poor people but some of us who know a lot more than ordinary mortals know, withhold that information, capitalize on that knowledge, and still make the world believe we are still doing humanity a big favor, but some of us? Look now, who is forbidding some countries to produce nuclear weapons but the one who started it all, and who sent hundreds of thousands to their deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Look now, who are sending innocent people, women and children and the elderly to their untimely deaths all because of hatred, all because of an ideology?

You guessed it right… It is us! It is us who do it in God’s name, in the name of justice. And in the name of development, we also proceed to destroy creation and jeopardize the future of the generations yet to come, by our short-sighted – if, materialistic - interests!

The Lord promised no more flood. But it all seems that human sinfulness is just about to send fire roaring down from above with all our war posturings and wanton selfishness. The Lord promised PEACE to all…all men and women, all living creatures, everything that is part of His handiwork in creation.

That promise is set to be definitively fulfilled at some future time, we are sure. But we are called to take part in the fulfillment of that divine promise. We are called to take part in the building up of a kingdom of love, peace and justice. We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ in order to make this a reality in the world we live in. We are supposed to give our little share to make this happen.

This we do, not in future, but NOW. Like Jesus, the Spirit leads us to our own deserts. We, too, are tempted by the new satans in our midst: the wish to get even, to need to put up a barrier of violence, ironically, to prevent more violence, our wish to get the upper hand, all the time, our distrust for others who do not share our own beliefs, our intolerance for all those who do not agree with us. The list is legion…We do not need satan to come to us…we have those temptation deeply embedded in our sinful nature and much more sinful culture.

But “the angels ministered to him,” we are told. We, too, are being ministered to by angels, by emissaries sent by God. We are being ministered to by the official teaching office of the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, who tells the world, as Christ did: NO TO WAR! NO TO VIOLENCE OF ANY KIND! And please do not put God into the picture. Please do not quote Allah and claim he is sending you to kill. For killing, violence, hatred cannot be godly at all. Those two can never come from God who loves us with an everlasting love.

“Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.” Allow us, Lord, to be touched deeply by the angels you have sent to minister to us in these trying times. Grant us the humility to acknowdge our own roles in this messy and hate-filled world. And grant us the courage and decision to make amends and really do what little we can to make this world a more love-filled and enabling world, for ALL, ALL LIVING CREATURES, AND ALL THAT IS IN THE WORLD THAT SUSTAINS US IN THIS LIFE! Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Catholic Homily/Sunday Reflections
Ash Wednesday (Year B)

Readings: Joel 2:12-18 / 2 Cor 5:20 - 6:2 / Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

A melange of powerful images confronts us as we “begin the discipline of Lent.” The prophet Joel speaks of “blowing the trumpet” and “calling for an assembly” in order to “proclaim a fast.” The rousing call has an air both of certainty and urgency, both springing from a firm conviction … “perhaps He will again relent, and leave behind him a blessing.” Joel’s conclusion is as certain as it is firm: “The Lord was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.”

But the conclusion did not come from thin air. It came from the depths of pleadings and prayers, summed up in our response after the first reading: “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.”

The same air of plaintive pleadings and fervent prayer is shown in Paul’s reaching out to the Corinthians: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God … We appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.”

Plaints, pleadings, and prayers … these are what characterize today’s readings. They stand at the core of what today’s liturgy is all about. We started out with a powerful prayer at the beginning of the Mass: “Protect us in our struggle against evil.”

We plead. We beg. We ask God for protection. This is the spirit of Lenten observance … a time for intense prayer … a season for fervent pleadings to a God who has always taken pity on his people. Lent is very simply this … a time to intensify our foundational connection with a God who communicates with us in word and deeds, and, therefore, a time for us all to return the favor in “word and deeds.”

This is what we pray for. We beg God for protection. We ask God for help. This is the “word” from our end. But we also follow God who fulfilled his “word” and followed it up with deeds. We resolve to do something. We promise to make good with our hands what we say with our lips. We pledge to accompany what we pray for with a promise of performance. We commit ourselves to “struggle against evil.”

Ash Wednesday offers a mélange of images, like I said above. Though not conflicting, said images are contrasting. On the one hand, we see ourselves as on the receiving end. We are beggars before a God of magnanimity and generosity, for as Joel puts it, “gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.”

But on the other hand, we see ourselves, too, as on the giving end, on the doing pole. It takes two to tango, as they say. Lent is not only all about asking. It is all about giving, too. It has to do with doing … with giving God His due. We join God in his struggle against anything and everything that blocks us from becoming what He is. We call it evil, and we strive to struggle against evil … in all its forms, colors, shapes, sizes, and guises.

But what we pray God for is not mere activism, not merely resorting to performances “so that people might see.” We pray for righteousness, not just for the will “to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them.”

Our culture is now deeply immersed in form, not substance. Just about everything we see and do starts out with, and ends up in, superficial form, not the inner, deeper reality that is not just skin deep. Beauty is identified with skin tone and color. In Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, one of the most saleable items is skin whitening products of every imaginable form. One of the most popular lunchtime TV shows, capitalizes a whole lot on images, on appearances, and on mere external realities that belie a culture devoid of solid, time-tested values. In their place is seen the overwhelming value of the material, the here and the now, and the quantifiable. Happiness is not emphasized, but appearing happy is. Having fun is not the aim, but putting on a semblance of unalloyed fun seems to be the rule of the game, the standard against which a potential “winner” or “participant” or audience is compared.

The world of mass media, in the Philippines, and elsewhere, does more than report events. They also mostly create events so they have something to report on. And this, they do, while sacrificing good, old, time-tested values on the altar of profit and those much coveted and much ballyhooed ratings! What is evil is reframed to appear good; and doing good is eventually portrayed as a futile activity, if not, as a waste of precious time that could be used to for more productive pursuits.

Today, at Ash Wednesday, the start of our Lenten season, we go beyond appearances. The Lord reminds us not to be satisfied with mere looks and empty symbols. He tells people who fast to wash their faces. He reminds people who give alms, not to blow trumpets that herald the good they do. He reminds those who pray to do so in their secret chambers, and not in public places.

What he really tells us is that prayer and good intentions are never enough. We do need to go beyond. We need to beg God and pray, but as every sailor lost out at sea knows too well, we need to pray, but we also need to row feverishly towards the shore. We need to help God so He could help us, too.

In short, we beg God for protection. But we do need to struggle against evil. God helps those who help themselves.

ICM House of Prayer
4 C.M. Recto
Baguio City

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Catholic Homily/Sunday Reflection
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time(B)
February 22, 2009

There is newness and freshness in the words of Isaiah the prophet today: “See I am doing something new!” Newness is something we all crave for. Freshness in the way we perceive old realities is something we value highly. We admire writers who do not dish out old and trite ways of expressions. And we esteem leaders who do not necessarily “go by the book” but who inject fresh vigor and renewed enthusiasm in their leadership and management style.

The same is pretty much true in other aspects of our lives. In Manila, for example, I am aghast at seeing how quickly people tire of whatever is perceived to be old stuff. Bars and restaurants need to reinvent themselves all the time if they want to remain in business. How many upstart joints have been put up all over which drew rave reviews less than six months or a year or so ago, but which are now struggling to survive, ever competing with ever new players in the same niche, trying to satisfy the now discriminating – if fickle – tastes of the young and those trying-hard-to-be-young! Newness is what we are after, not stale and static fixtures in our fast-paced lives in a fast globalizing world.

The French have an interesting maxim: “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.” The more things change, the more they remain the same. Alas, most often, what we value as change is nothing but superficial, cosmetic face-lifts. In this present-day world of cable TV, bars that remain static do not stay up in the charts for long. The yuppies who think they have oodles of money to burn, hop from one joint to another, searching for the latest new thing that passes itself off as unique and patently distinct from what all the rest offer. Restaurants that have been fossilized in their 70s or 80s image, who do not cater to the upbeat “eatertainment-crazed’ crowd, who do not exude a dynamic motif that spells and sounds fresh, cannot hope to remain up there for long.

But the question to ask is: Are things really new? Do they really offer anything earthshakingly extraordinary? Or have people just become so used to cosmetic changes and face-lifts, to ever-evolving and rapid, quick succession of images and sounds that denote movement, that they cannot anymore suffer the discipline of sedate and quiet reflection, when we can really grapple with the basis and foundation of all that changes in our midst? The more things change, the more they remain the same!

What remains the same? This is what I suggest the liturgy today, among many others, asks us to reflect on. I would like to suggest a few in my list, if you care to read on…

Our sinful selves…this is one fact that remains true and constant. “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not.” This has been true ever since Adam and Eve first fell into disobedience. This has remained a constant ever since Cain committed that crime against Abel…What do you think is behind all the graft and corruption in this country? Is it to be wondered at that we are among the 12 countries worldwide who rank highest in institutionally-built in corruption? What do you think is behind all this mad rush for public offices and positions?…or the endless cheatings and vote-buying during elections? What makes it so hard to lick the traffic and the trash problem? You guessed it right!…Selfishness and lack of synergy from among our politicians to name two causes…It all boils down to sin.

I must admit there is a lot of good being done by well-meaning people who really want solely the common good. They are a rare breed – rara aves – who do not make for a critical mass of people in society who can make things change deep down. And so I go to the second in my list…People do not recognize the good these people do. In our world-famous crab mentality, people who do well and who bear lots of good fruit are either shot down – or ignored altogether. Their achievements are downplayed, criticized, or shot to smithereens! Isaiah says: “Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” There is a whole lot of good happening in our society and in the world, and, thanks to the miracles of mass media, public opinion can be swayed very easily through an immoral game called mass manipulation. Important elements of the truth are withheld, modified, sugar-coated, many times by people in power who have their own personal agendas, and what ensues is a phenomenon called co-optation. People are co-opted into doing something they do not even perceive as bad or immoral, or at least deficient in the good. People are given the freedom to look, but not the freedom to really see.

But there is a more important constant in my list that we should not gloss over. This is something that Biblical tradition has passed on so clearly but which can get lost in the midst of so much surface change in the world today. This is the constant of God’s forgiveness, the constant of God’s call and God’s fidelity. St. Paul alludes to this truth: “As God is faithful, our word to you is not ‘yes’ and ‘no.’” Such is his fidelity to us His people that He even gave us a pledge…some kind of a down payment: “But the one who gives us security with you in Christ and who anointed us is God; he has also put his seal upon us and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.”

In the Gospel, Jesus gives the ultimate sign of these constant truths about us. He forgave the sins of the paralytic. He went straight to the point. He did not feel the need to go into superficial gimmickry, into spectacular but cheap tactics, such as people nowadays easily fall for. He went direct to the foundational constant truth about us all – that we are sinners all in need of salvation, more than anything else. This is the constant truth that we have to see.

Unfortunately, the scribes looked, but did not see. They chided him for it and raised an issue of theology, accusing him of blasphemy. What was so clear to people who SAW, was abstruse to people who were bent on looking for ways to pin him down. Sounds familiar? Oh yes, it does.

Indeed, it all sounds familiar, for it happens everyday. The “SCRIBES AND PHARISEES FOREVER MOVEMENT” has not really died down. This movement lives on in the hearts of people who can even quote Church documents and the Bible to prove themselves. They can even drag the whole world to war in the name of justice, or in the name of God, because they do not see, or they refuse to see and acknowledge that there are more mundane and selfish motives lurking behind what they openly tell people are their genuine intentions. Religious psychologists have a term for this phenomenon: religious self-assertion, which is one of the so-called “counterfeits” in the practice of religion.

As we reflect on the readings of today, let us be reminded about our own propensity to act out of mixed motives. That in itself is not bad. The tragedy is when we put forward only the “good”motives and when all the other basically selfish, if not downright evil, motives are made to hide behind those good ones. This is looking whilst not seeing. This is exactly like the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.

The Gospel ends with a clincher for us: “They were all (presumably except the scribes!) astounded and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this.’”

Monday, February 9, 2009


Catholic Homily / Sunday Reflections
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B
February 15, 2009

Readings: Lv 13:1-2. 44-46 / 1 Cor 10:31-11:1 / Mk 1:40-45

The conditions described by today’s readings are a perfect example of class distinction, separation, and everything that smacks of segmentation and fragmentation. Whilst not necessarily bad in itself, a misguided, if overzealous dedication to the principles of such ritual class segregations may do more harm than good on the long haul – and a most dangerous atttitude to boot!

Our world of today is rife with not just examples but glaring realities of such categorization of people and even whole nations into disparate groups or blocks that tend, for the most part, to exclude, not include. We talk of the world’s richest nations, the G7, or the so-called group of seven. We talk about the world’s 7 poorest nations who, aping the former, also hold periodic conventions to discuss about things I know not much about. In cities all over the world, people talk of posh districts which are really exclusive enclaves for those who have the time and the money to read – and be featured in - expensive glossy magazines. Chicago has its “magnificent mile” over at Michigan Avenue Northside. LA takes pride in its Beverly Hills row of shops that sell stuff that cost at times literally a lifetime fortune’s worth for people who live hand to mouth in hovels all over the world. The world itself is divided into first and third worlds. In the Philippines, there are malls for the ultra rich, malls for the trying-hard-to-appear rich, and malls for the poor who will never be both – unless, of course, they get the much coveted lotto jackpot! We have housing enclaves for the rich, euphemistically called “villages” in the Philippines, and, for the hoi polloi, we have what is generically called “poblacion” with all the rest passing for shanties and hovels simply not in keeping with human dignity.

The world is divided into pockets of luxury and ever growing, widening swaths of penury and want. The world is mired in exclusivity and millions of the equivalent of the biblical outcast par excellence – the leper – thrive in sub-human conditions in many cases, just a stone’s throw away from the well-heeled politicians and their cohorts who just love those teeming poor…They just love to manipulate them and use them and their vote-rich misguided attachment to these charlatans who think of them only prior to elections day.

The first reading is a perfect backdrop for reflection today for it speaks about ritual segregation: the leper will dwell apart, making an abode outside the camp. The leper, according the Mosaic Law, is automatically an outcast. The leper must show himself to a priest who, again according to law, is the one who declares him ritually unclean. And being unclean, he has to be avoided. He has to shout out to others “unclean, unclean” and any one who touches him becomes unclean himself.

Jesus touched the leper!

One can just imagine how those who surrounded him must have gasped in horror at his selfless gesture. No self-respecting rabbi during his times would have done that. “I do will it. Be made clean.” Jesus, the Savior par excellence, would not be hemmed in by the law and the culture that framed it, and he did what was right for him to do – show a sign that he has come to save, to liberate, to heal, and to bring God’s ultimate act of cleansing, the forgiveness of our sins! Jesus’ gesture shows us a picture of a God that includes, not excludes.

There is an unhealthy mutually exclusive air of conflicting ideologies in the world today. There is one fueled by the ravaging forces of absolute capitalism that excludes God out of the picture and makes a god out of the ability of man to produce, sell and consume. An extreme form of capitalism that makes a virtue out of personal comfort, profit and luxury stands at loggerheads with another ideology based on a misguided, fanatical attachment who rules every aspect of our earthly lives, an autocratic god who is appropriated and domesticated by charismatic leaders who want to establish what they believe is absolute theocracy over the affairs of human beings in the world. Both camps paint each other as evil personified. Both are willing to fight and kill and destroy IN THE NAME OF GOD, in the name of right using MIGHT and MAIN as passports to power and control. Both are mutually exclusive. The forces of absolute capitalism versus the so-called axis of evil!

Today, there is a more powerful force that Jesus shows us…the power of inclusive love and unconditional mercy. Jesus touched the leper. He went the extra mile. He could have relegated the matter to his “assistant.” He could have passed him off as just one more nuisance to be gotten rid of forthwith. But a man of peace that he was, he touched him and healed him, more inside than outside, I am sure.

We live in a fragmented and divided world sorely in need of healing. At the threshold of what seems to be imminent war that produces no winners ever, we are once more face to face not with the evil that is outside of us, but the evil that each of us is really capable of doing, the evil of hatred, the evil of revenge, the evil of all this senseless cycle of violence that is found in the hearts of people from both sides who are all only too willing and ready to kill in God’s name.

As a people, as a nation, as a family of nations and races, as sons and daughters of a God of peace, an inclusive God, the real God that lies hidden behind all this parody of a man-made god who goes enthusiastically to war, we bow down in humble supplication and pray: LORD, TOUCH US AND HEAL US! BRING US CLOSE TO YOU AND WE WILL BE SAVED!

The response to the first reading is apt and well chosen: I TURN TO YOU, LORD, IN TIME OF TROUBLE, AND YOU FILL ME WITH THE JOY OF SALVATION.

I would like you to join the Holy Father and the rest of those who try their best to make people trod the paths that lead to peace to offer continual prayers of supplication that the Lord may touch the hearts and minds of all those who are in power, legitimately or otherwise and who wield enough influence over others and work for their overall good or otherwise cause untold destruction by any means fair or foul to countless peace-loving people, that they may all see the utter folly and futility of it all, and that they may realize that right is never the monopoly of those who have might, that God is on the side of the lowly, the gentle of heart, the peacemakers and those who suffer for righteousness’ sake. In the final analysis, peace, love, forgiveness, humility…these are the genuine ties that will bind all of us together. And everything that passes off as their opposite is that which divides. Let us work for unity, not division.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Catholic Homily / Sunday Reflections

5th Sunday in OrdinaryTime - Year B
February 8, 2009

Two weeks ago, I reflected on the need for a sense of urgency in our lives, an urgency not in terms of being enslaved by the desire for the more, the better, the ultimate in our earthly concerns. I spoke of the need for a sense of urgency in the sense of getting the right perspective in life, knowing one’s priorities, operating on the right paradigms that put God and His Kingdom as first in the list, “for the world and its pleasures are fast drifting away.”

Today, we are confronted with a similar challenge. There is a little air of apparent compulsion as we hear the Lord say “Let us go on to the other villages, that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” But this challenge is preceded by yet another paradox, an apparent contradiction in images, presented in the first reading by a figure of a tired and weary, complaining Job whose laments strike us to the core: “Is not man’s life a drudgery? Are not his days those of hirelings? He is a slave who longs for the shade, a hireling who waits for his wages?”

Job would most likely have made a very good trial lawyer! His argumentation is very cogent; his reasoning very logical. And the cases he stands for are all very existential! They are all very real, and close to the experience of anyone who has seen suffering in any form. Will anyone please who has not suffered stand up? If any, which I doubt, then this homily is not for you – and neither, perhaps, any other homily.

I address myself to you who all long for respite from so much “sweat and care and cumber; sorrows passing number!” (Hopkins) I address myself to you who, like Job, can identify with the slave who longs for the shade. I identify myself with thousands of Filipino fathers who, in their desire to give their children a brighter future, have endured, and still endure, so many long years of absence from family and loved ones, in places that are not exactly paradise regained. I identify myself with even bigger numbers of mothers who often single-handedly try with might and main, to raise and educate a brood of impressionable young minds fast falling prey to the glamor and glitter of mass media and malls, and their allure of values that are “fast drifting away” from the path of real happiness and fulfillment. I identify myself with forlorn and – for all intents and purposes – abandoned children in a very real and poignant way! They wake up to see and hear surrogate parents, no doubt well-meaning grandparents, aunts and uncles, or even worse, yayas y yayos (caregivers and domestic helpers), who themselves are caught up in their own brand of an earthly sense of urgency and wordly cares. With almost 10 million Filipinos ( more than 10 % of our present population) eking out a living abroad, surely there must be a lot of weary Jobs out there who are “filled with restlessness until the dawn,” whose “life is like the wind,” and who endlessly “long for the shade.”

I address this piece of good news to all of you in pain, all of you in sorrow, all of you who are siding with Job, you who seem to ask in the midst of so much darkness and uncertainty, “When shall I arise?”

Yes, I address myself to fellow Filipinos whose very questioning deep in their troubled hearts betray a very deep sense of hope and faith. I then ask you to look at this other side of the picture – the proverbial resiliency of the Filipino, the almost unlimited capacity to endure, the admirable ability of the Filipino to bounce back, to come out the winner despite the odds! How else would you explain the fact that Filipinos find endless inspiration from telenovelas, whose portrayal of the classical suffering underdog never fails to capture the sympathy of us all?

Today’s good news rings loud and clear for us: God is close to the broken-hearted! Our response today, mind you, is not more of Job’s plaints and cries. It is more like a Job renewed, a Job refreshed, a Job risen from misery, and a Job back on his feet of steadfast trust and faith in a God who “gives” and “takes away.” Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted! How can a man like Job do this? What is behind all this turnaround? Read for yourself…Job’s problems were not undone. His arguments failed to reverse his long list of woes. His losses never came back.

But there is one thing that happened to him who was honest and sincere enough to take his case to the God who is close to the broken-hearted. Enslaved by suffering and pain without him looking for them, he turned to the Lord and declared his helplessness. Like Paul, he went through the process of acceptance. In the context of prayer and solitude, he found solace and meaning behind it all, because he saw God and His closeness to the broken-hearted. Paul tells us what this salvific pain is all about. It is all about pain freely accepted, suffering freely taken upon oneself, welcomed for a higher purpose. It is all about giving one’s best, wringing out of ourselves the best that the richness of our personhood can offer: “I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible. To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the Gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.”

Job did not find a solution to his problems. No. But looking for God in prayer and solitude, he found a meaning to his problems. For behind it all is God himself who suffers with him. Behind it all is a God who calls us to greatness, who brings out the best in us, who makes of us unheralded heroes of endurance and patience, who manage despite everything, to send children to school and mold them somehow into becoming the best they could be.

There is some little detail that people in tears may not see in today’s gospel, much like the tears of Mary Magdalene, which covered her eyes and gave her temporary blindness to the point of missing the risen Lord for a while. In the midst of so much cares and worries of the apostolate… in the midst of so much demand from people who wanted healing and a good word from the Lord to lift their spirits up … “the whole town was gathered at the door…” Jesus did something we all could resort to, or ought to do always, everyday, every single day… “Rising early before dawn, Jesus left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.” I would like to think, Jesus did not leave Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and her impertinence and importunings. The Gospel tells us she worked quietly, waiting on Jesus and the disciples. No. Jesus went away to pray, to commune with the Father. This is the solitude of one who is caught up in so many cares, so much to do in so little time. There is, again, a deep sense of urgency in his heart! No matter how urgent, no matter how important. No matter the deadlines and all, Jesus prayed.

Perhaps this is the secret to it all. Perhaps instead of cogent arguments and getting lost in New Age literature and finding quick answers in crystals and horoscopes and feng shui galore, we need to go to our own interior deserts and pray. There, miracles happen. For there is the place of meeting between broken-hearted people like you and me, and a God who is close to the broken-hearted! When we meet him in prayer and solitude, our paradigms change, our whole mind set changes. With St. Paul we say…all for the sake of the gospel. Nothing more. Nothing less. And nothing else!