Follow Me on Facebook

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

BORN TO BE FREE!


Catholic Homily / Sunday Reflection
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
September 5, 2010


There is something heartwarming in today’s readings, particularly in Paul’s letter to Philemon (2nd reading). Paul, by then an old man in prison, waxes paternal and solicitous for the welfare of both Philemon and the runaway slave Onesimus. As the law would prescribe, Paul sends him right back to Philemon, but not before liberating both the master and the slave. Philemon may well have been a slave to the prevailing culture of that time that considered slavery normal. Onesimus, may well have been, not only a physical slave, but also – and more importantly – a slave to his own misconceptions about himself and his relationship with the rest of the world, including his master, Philemon.

Paul, an old man shackled in prison, bound by the dictates of an earthly law that he has spent so much time and effort enlightening people about, gives Philemon, Onesimus, and the whole believing world for posterity, a great lesson on personal deliverance, freedom, and total human liberation.

The Olympic games held in Beijing two years ago were a minefield, not only of gold medals, but also of golden opportunities to illustrate inner personal freedom and the liberating force of love for others. I have no idea whether those athletes who became clear icons of interior freedom have ever heard of the Christian gospel, but what some of them did in the playing fields are definitely supportive of the Christian good news that has to do essentially with liberation.

In a hotly contested arena that makes vying for the coveted gold, silver, or bronze medals a matter of both personal and national pride, it is so easy for any athlete to go for drugs as much as he/she goes for gold. Where everyone cheers and eggs them on to be “swifter, higher, stronger,” athletes can really be tempted to fall slaves to dopes and drugs, slaves to the idea of victory at all costs, enslaved by  lies, even as they bask under the glow of fame and – for some – fortune. But in this same arena awash in potential cheating of all kinds, there appear, time and time again, shining examples of values that proclaim the dazzling beauty of liberating truth, and the interior glow of honesty, good, clean, hard work, and the rare flash of magnanimity that comes from the most unexpected players.

The Greek weightlifter named Dimas, in his fourth time as Olympic contender back in 2004, was given a standing and raucous ovation for tens of minutes. He was a brilliant example of one who refused to go by the hidden rules of doping. Though older than most of his counterparts, he tried one last time to lift that enormous weight over his shoulders. His Atlas-like prowess was long gone, as was obvious to everyone in the stands. His body all but crumpled under the weight, but Dimas came out a golden medalist in the hearts of everyone, not only in Greece, but all over the world. His wife and three children were there, crying for joy and sadness. The crowds at the Panathenaike stadium were on their feet, cheering him on. The rest of the people in all the fabled motley islands of Greece (the Dodekanese) must have been stomping their feet in honor of one who could no longer go “swifter, higher, and stronger,” but who towered over everybody else due to his unflinching code of personal integrity, pristine honesty, and devotion to his family and adopted homeland. (He was a migrant from Albania, of Greek grandparents).

Who says interior freedom is no longer in vogue? Who says that the liberating power of moral truth is no longer relevant?

Can anyone say that freedom is not a value to those two women from Afghanistan, whose quest for gold ended after just 45 seconds of competition, reviled and hated like anything, for having gone to Greece to follow their heart, and share in the “glorious liberty of the children of God,” despite a culture that is willing to kill them for doing the unthinkable?

Can anyone fault the bemedalled and universally adored lanky  then 19-year old kid from Baltimore,  (Michael Phelps, dubbed the Baltimore Bullet) who gave up the chance to increase even more his stature, by giving his fellow team-mate the chance to compete in the 200 meter relay in swimming? Can anyone fail to see the force of interior freedom shining in the hearts of contenders who simply have no chance, but who plodded on all the same, in quest, not so much for the gold, as for the golden opportunity to do one’s best in the midst of the world’s finest?

We live in a world dotted with Olympic-sized challenges all over. They may not have to do with material gold and glittering medallions. But these moral challenges have to do with what matters, what counts, and what is most important in the long run. They have to do with treasures which no moth or rust can destroy. And like the coveted Olympic gold, or the gospel’s “pearl of great price,” they call on us to give our best, to do our utmost, and to plan ahead.

On other occasions, I have repeatedly said that we live in the context of a morally complex world, at best. At worst, we find ourselves in a morally messy world. In a world that is ruled by conflicting and contrasting ideologies, extremes of thought that are, at bottom, based on the same materialistic philosophical grounds, it is so easy to join the morally relativistic bandwagon and live just like everybody does, just like all of Hollywood does, just like what mass media show us – a case of art imitating life, or life imitating art. In a country that considers graft and corruption the “normal thing to do,” it is so easy to “join them, if you cannot beat them.” And in this surging sea of relativism, all is alright, everything is OK, and sin is nothing more than a label to be done away with, an unhealthy guilt that must be banished from our neurotic minds.

Today, the liturgy teaches us that, whilst the Olympic games are still two years away, the moral challenges of daily life go on. The call to genuine interior liberation goes on. And examples both from Scriptures and daily life in our times are never wanting. These are examples of people, who, while physically challenged like Paul in prison, nevertheless come out interiorly free. These are examples of people who have chosen heavenly “wisdom” over earthly and material cunningness and skills. They have chosen mystery over mastery, ever ready and willing to be guided by the ineffable counsel from above: “Who can know God’s counsel or who can conceive what the Lord intends? … Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high?”

Those great men and women who compete at the games do not go there without undergoing grueling training and preparations. Some of them get what they prepared for – medals of metal and adulation from adoring crowds.

In the greater and bigger arena that is the world and life in its fullness, victory lies, not so much on those who excel in physical powers, but on those who have understood that what counts in the long run, is the freedom that comes from above, the freedom that is both a test and a trust – a gift and a responsibility. This is the gift of Christian, interior freedom that comes with the very nature of our being human, created as we are unto God’s image and likeness.

Born to be free, humans like us, are called to ever deeper, ever broader, and ever more liberating freedom. Onward, then, Christian soldiers to the fight of our lifetimes! Swifter, higher, stronger!


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

HUMBLE FOR A REASON

Catholic Homily/Sunday Reflection
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time(C)
August 29, 2010



Reasons, there are, abounding to aim for greatness, popularity, and power. With so much competition in our postmodern culture that values self-fulfillment and self-realization to the hilt; with so much pressure on us to deliver, perform, and conform to the so-called “norms” of a society that ever hankers for the elusive more and more, who would want to be at the bottom of the heap? Who would want to be left behind by the bandwagon of success and achievement?


By comparison, the liturgy today simply sounds so counter-intuitive, so counter-cultural! Whilst the whole world speaks of getting up higher in the rung of worldly importance, and exhorts all and sundry to pull their own strings, and to claim their rightful place under the sun, today’s readings almost sound like a douse of cold water to our raging enthusiasm to excel and be known to many for all we are worth (or at least imagine ourselves to be).


Or are they?


The first reading from Sirach opens, not with a shove towards worldly excellence, but a gentle nudge towards spiritual heights: “My child, conduct your affairs with humility.” Jesus, in the Gospel, affirms the exhortation of Sirach, with a very practical rule for party rats: “do not recline at table in the place of honor.” Consciously working and striving to aggrandize oneself and purposely elevating oneself to a level higher than that of others simply does not belong to Jesus’ new set of “table etiquette” in the Kingdom he has come to establish. The second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews gives the context and motivation for such a selfless and lowly stance. Simply put, this world as we know it, is not going to last forever. Sooner than we imagine, the “heavenly Jerusalem” will one day bring to naught all our earthly strivings and all our vainglorious longings for honor, power, and glory.


A sobering thought and a solid reality check all this is!


Today, we are told not simply to be humble. We are also told that there are reasons, too, why we ought to be humble. Let’s get them straight from the horse’s mouth. Sirach tells us that with humility, we “will be loved more than a giver of gifts” and we “will find favor with God.” The letter-writer to the Hebrews reminds us of the ultimate reason to imitate God in his humility … we “approach Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven …” Jesus, for his part, tells us: “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”


Yes, reasons abound for us to work for greatness and supremacy in every imaginable facet of human life. But more compelling reasons abound that show that the virtue of humility is worth striving after and working for … at least the right humility that the Scriptures speak of, not the self-deprecating type that has received such a bad rap for centuries – the maudlin, self-destructive “humility” that serves one in good stead only during pious retreats, only when there is no more choice left, a humility that enslaves, a humility “for effect,” a humility that really quietly seethes and screams in silent, muffled, and ill-concealed anger.


Yes … the humility that is the subject of today’s good news has nothing of the negative in it. Humility that Sirach speaks about does not smack of weakness and helplessness. The humility presented by Scriptures is redolent of the positive, the powerful, and the freely chosen. Scriptural humility starts with Truth, most especially the truth about God vis-à-vis human beings. And this truth has to do with His choice, His love, and His predilection for us His creatures. God is Love! Bernard Haring writes that these words imply in a challenging way the concomitant truth that God is humility. For “God is the love that bends down to us so that He can lift us up.”


Indeed, humility is truth, as we have often been told. Humility starts in truth which reminds us that we are only humus (soil), but loved immensely by the world’s most tremendous lover. This truth leads us to proclaim with gratitude: “God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.” (Responsorial Psalm)


This virtue that has received a bad press over the past many decades needs a little more looking into. It needs a repackaging of sorts, for instead of being all about negatives, it really has to do with a whole lot of positives. In this age and time of “positive psychology,” in a culture awash with ideas of self-fulfillment and self-realization, and in a world replete with examples of self-propelled success and self-made riches, it is all too easy to fall victim to the extremes, either of pride (thinking of oneself as greater than one really is), or self-pity (thinking of oneself as worse than he/she really is). In between the two extremes lies healthy self-esteem, the basic psychological building block of the virtue of humility.


I have it on the authority of moralist James Keenan that, whilst self-esteem is not a virtue, it makes the virtue of humility possible. Again, here we are back to the discourse of the grace-nature interplay. Grace builds on nature. And nature, that is, the human personality ought first to be perfected by, among others, a healthy self-esteem. Keenan goes further, in fact, as to suggest self-esteem to be among the so-called “cardinal virtues” (along with justice, prudence, fidelity, and self-esteem).


As a pastoral counselor and a priest-educator over the past twenty-eight years, I find common-ground with what Keenan suggests. More than this, I find the Biblical data on humility more than enough material to prop up such a positive approach to humility cum self-esteem.


Today’s readings are a case in point. They all speak of humility, not only as a positive virtue, but as a virtue that smacks of personal power. The virtue of humility, instead of being a virtue of the weak, really appears to be a virtue of those who are ready and willing to take the Kingdom of God by storm, on purpose, based on a freely made decision to focus less on what earthly and temporal kingdoms have to offer, but more on the “blazing fire” and the “trumpet blast” associated with the “resurrection of the righteous.”


Humble people are never humiliated. They can only be humbled even more, for in the strength and power of their well-placed self-esteem, they become the “meek” who have learned to “take [Jesus’] yoke upon [them] and learned from [him], meek and humble of heart.”


Blessed are the humble and the meek … for they shall inherit the earth. Like Jesus, humbled for a reason, they shall be exalted by no less than the God who is Love, the God who is humility, the Mighty, Strong, Immortal One !(Ho Theos, Ho Ischyros, Ho Athanatos).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

CALLED, GATHERED, DISCIPLINED, AND SENT


Catholic Homily/Sunday Reflection
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time(C)
August 22, 2010


The readings today are very much apropos the recently concluded World Cup that captured the world’s interest for a whole month.

Isaiah’s vision speaks of a great ingathering of people “from all nations” “of every language” who “shall come and see [God’s] glory.” The passage from the letter to the Hebrews speaks of “discipline”“brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” Discipline, in other words, appears to come more easy and more acceptable for one who gets training. (The word for “training” has to do with the root-word for gymnastics). The Gospel, for its part, further affirms the overriding images of the first two readings, by alluding to the need for Christ’s followers “to strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many […] will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” (the original meaning has to do more with “instruction”), and acknowledges said discipline to be a source, not so much of joy, as of pain, but which

At a time in history when people go through all imaginable lengths to get what they want, what they dream of, and long for, above everything else … with top seeded athletes enduring hours-long stretches of “training” and rigorous “discipline” day after grueling day … when even terrorists spend years “casing” their targets carefully and meticulously … when a mass media-mediated culture of individualism, one-upmanship, and unbridled competition is the run of the day, it definitely sounds refreshing and reinvigorating to hear something that seems to reinforce that which we are already good at – competing, trying to get to the top of the heap, pushing, shoving, or otherwise clawing one’s way to the pinnacle of our earthly desires.

Ever since the philosopher Descartes, and his famous declaration “Cogito, ergo sum” (I think, therefore, I am!), which became the banner headline and war-cry of a movement called the “enlightenment,” “going for the gold,” “pulling one’s own strings,” “going out and grabbing for oneself,” and “being number one” became apparently the “right thing” to do, the foundation stones for “rugged individualism” pushed to the extreme.

So what is wrong with disciplining and training oneself in order to become top dog? Nothing in and of itself … Except that if it becomes the end in itself, if clawing one’s way to the top is the end all and be all of one’s existence, and if everything and everyone else is sacrificed on the altar of one’s search for the holy grail of individual and personal success and fulfillment, then all this becomes vanity … all is vanity … Today’s readings, furthermore, tell us we are off the mark … way, way off.
Let us unpack a bit the meaning of today’s readings. First, Isaiah tells us that the proper starting point is not our personal dream, but that of God’s. God’s vision, in addition, is one of a great ingathering of peoples and nations. This is not the language of individualism and narrow, personal concerns. Nor is this the language of exclusivity, but one of inclusivity. Second, the letter to the Hebrews reminds us that this search for the common good, this concern for others, and this drive to “go out to all the world [to] tell the good news” is fraught with a lot of trials and, therefore, needs “discipline.” Still more, this discipline may cause a lot of pain. Third, Jesus reminds us that discipleship entails hard work, and that those who are first now will not necessarily keep their title at the end of time. “For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

It is very clear that the need for discipline and training is framed in the context of God’s vision for the world. It is clear that the Christian calling to discipleship is primarily a call to social relatedness, to social responsibility, in the context, not of individualism and a self-centered spirituality, but one that starts and ends with the idea of everyone’s belongingness to a community called and gathered by God Himself.

In our times, encouraged as we are by a techno-savvy individualistic culture, and by mainstream media and round-the-clock entertainment to “do our own thing,” and “look out for oneself,” at a time when the most coveted items are things like “personal computers,” “personal digital assistants,” “personal TV/video players,” and “personal entertainment centers like IPods, IPads, and all, religion and spirituality become highly personal and private matters that need not be talked about in public. God becomes a personal commodity to be sought for on one’s own, at one’s own convenience, at one’s own style and pacing. For a great many, this translates to a God that is conveniently and effectively kept “at arm’s length,” in one’s closet, in the privacy of one’s home, to be consulted only as needed, when convenient, when strictly necessary. For those in the opposite extreme, who are very religious, but who subscribe to an idea of an equally personal and deeply private faith, “discipline” and “training” get reduced to “pietistic” practices and personal devotions. Their faith never gets beyond what at times may be deemed fanatical and misguided attachments to popular devotions, statues, and images. For the former, God is a personal commodity to be called on as needed. For the latter, God is an intensely private source of solace and consolation, and faith is nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else but private, personal devotion. For such people, personal holiness means spending all-night vigils, doing endless reparatory prayers for “sinners all over the world,” and trying to appease an angry God whose hands are poised to strike the world in punishment.

But today’s readings, and Biblical data as a whole, simply do not support such extremes of living one’s faith. At bottom, both approaches are extremely individualistic, and self-centered. Both are really based solely on individuals’ dreams for themselves. Both lose sight of God’s dream for the world, for all of humanity, including those from whom we might never expect much, at least initially – the foreigners, “people from the east and the west, and from the north and the south.”

Today, therefore, is a good time to be reminded of the Catholic Church’s “best-kept secret” – the catholic social teachings. In essence, following very clear Biblical data, said teachings remind us that we all are called to be holy, yes – but holiness in and through our relational selves, in and through our social selves. Holiness, thus, is not a mere pious endeavor, that reduces Christian life to personal prayers and personal devotions, and mere ritualistic attendance at Masses on Sundays. Holiness, in addition, is not mere personal sanctification, but a participation in God’s dream for humankind, for the world, for society. Holiness, is a participation in the mission of social transformation, in sharing in the “joys, the hopes, the anxieties and the griefs of modern men and women” (Gaudium et Spes) all over the world. It means being engaged and involved in an imperfect world trying to reach common fulfillment for all humanity.

For as Christians, we are all called, gathered, disciplined (instructed) by God, and sent to “all the world [to] tell the Good News.”


Thursday, August 12, 2010

UNTIL HE HAS PUT ALL HIS ENEMIES UNDER HIS FEET!

Catholic Homily/Sunday Reflection
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
August 15, 2010

The world of science is familiar with the idea of putting to rout all that militates against life. Ironically, health or wholeness, had to do, among many other things, with being free from other forms of life that are really, at bottom, anti-life. Science is all too familiar with the world of microbes, bacteria, and viruses. Whilst they, too, are forms of life (though lower forms), they can wreak havoc to life as we know it, life as God would have us live it, fullness of life, a life of wholeness, a life of health, a life that leads us ultimately, to eternal life.


We all know what it means to be downed by a microbe, or at least, bacteria. Some bacteria can cause not just discomfort, but real misery, as when bacteria that gets into the alimentary canal, ingested together with food, can cause us untold misery via gastro-intestinal problems.


The whole world of medical science revolves around the need to keep such harmful lower forms of life at bay … if they are to be prevented from spreading and causing further destruction, and – even – death to millions of people. The HIV virus is one such “enemy” that the world of medical science spends so much time and money for – at the service of “fullness of life” for all!


We cannot talk of today’s feast without resorting to all this talk about a virus that is just as hard to eradicate. We all know what this virus is. We all have fallen prey to that virus. “All men have fallen short of the glory of God!” All the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve became part of what St. Augustine called “massa damnata,” mankind who, on account of the first fall, were born with the stain of “original sin.”


But God, who created humans free, is a God who sets all men and women free! He is a God of freedom, a God who enabled man to attain the fullness of that freedom, but a God who, on account of the very same freedom, was, in a sense, “powerless” before the mystery of human choice, and the concomitant mystery of human iniquity. But God is more powerful than sin, more powerful even that death. His love has no bounds, and even the gates of hell won’t prevail.


We all know the fruits of that original iniquity. St. Paul reminds us in no uncertain terms: “death came through man.” “The wages of sin is death.” The justice of God decreed so.


But God, who calls us to fullness of life, is also one who “puts to rout all that is not life.” He is, like any good doctor, one who won’t stop at anything “until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” Yes … death came through one man, but “the resurrection of the dead came also through man.” Whilst God is supremely just, God is eternally loving, infinitely forgiving, and the forces of that original virus has been put to rout by one man, Jesus Christ, in contraposition to Adam.


But we need to tell the whole story. The whole story includes one among the “massa damnata” saved in advance by the suffering, death, and resurrection of him whom this someone – a woman – brought into the world. This woman, blessed among all women, reversed the unfortunate Eva, and, through the words of an angel, became a resounding AVE!


This woman, by the name of Mary, honored by generations past and for many other generations to come, is God’s antidote to the virus of sin, for God loves to work through secondary causes. By choosing her to be the mother of His only Son, God has decreed that she be the human answer to a human problem of disobedience and sin. Sin entered through man. Salvation entered through the Son of Man, born of Mary, born of woman, blessed among all women.


The world of science is all too familiar too with the concept of antidotes. Ironic as it may sound, the cure to a venomous snake bite is the very same venom, processed, carefully graduated and measured and administered. The cure to man’s sinfulness, in God’s scheme of things, was for His Son to embrace that very same humanity, that very same nature imbroigled in sin, and for Christ, His Son, to become all things to all men, to be like unto them in all things but sin!


And the way of all flesh is to go by way of flesh – to be born of a woman – Mary. And this is where the core meaning of this feast comes in … This woman, born of sinful humanity, but saved in advance by Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection, was made to share, too, of the glories of Christ’s resurrection.


She, whom God decreed should rid the world of the effects of the virus of sin, was herself preserved, by God’s singular grace, from the effects of that same virus. Mary slept the sleep of death, but was taken up body and soul into heaven. She was assumed. ASSUMPTA EST MARIA IN COELO!


Is there anything unreasonable in that? Is there anything unreasonable for God to treat her as she deserved? – as the Mother of the Savior, the Mother of His Son?


But the story does not end here. God still is busy ridding the world of the virus of sin. God, in and through Christ, is still engaged in putting to rout all that is not life, and leading us to fullness of life. God won’t stop, in and through Christ, “until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”


And I got good news for you … She who brought the Savior to the world, still is busy cooperating with the Grace (in person) that He brought. As mother of Grace, she works to help us become the best we are called to be. For like Mother, like Son … Both are in partnership … both hearts work in tandem, in syntony, and in harmony, to put to rout all that is not life. And together with her Son, she works “until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” TOTA PULCHRA ES, MARIA, ET MACULA NON EST IN TE! You are beautiful O Mary, and no stain has defiled you. ORA PRO NOBIS PECCATORIBUS! PRAY FOR US SINNERS.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

LIVING IN FAITH, WATCHING IN HOPE



Catholic Homily/Sunday Reflection
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
August 8, 2010


I would like to think of today’s liturgy as a lesson on keeping one’s sense of balance in these postmodern times all too prone to all forms of excesses and imbalances. In these confusing times marked by the pull of so many conflicting ideologies and positions on the political, cultural, philosophical, and – even – religious planes, it is very easy for all to fall for one of such extreme positions.

Not even the Catholic Church is spared this particular difficulty and monumental challenge to evangelization. On the one hand, there are those of us who fall for the cut-and-dried and what appears to be a no-nonsense approach to the faith offered by modern-day milleniarists who overly emphasize an apocalyptic, if frightening, vision of impending disaster and gloom that mark the coming of the “end times.” Supported by the teachings of so-called “visionaries” that espouse doubtful theology, and reports of various, alleged, but, unapproved Marian apparitions all over the world, these Christian Catholics spend all their time preaching a “fire and brimstone” type of gospel, based more on fear, than on love and healthy, balanced, and theologically sound devotion.

On the other hand, we have a growing bunch of those who, in their desire to give quick answers to people who are lost in a culture either of material affluence or the utter lack of it, a culture characterized either by overflowing wealth or utmost penury, the gospel gets reduced to a message of prosperity solely for the here-and-now, on the one hand, or one that identifies salvation solely with the hereafter, on the other, leaving people only with the promise of retribution and spiritual salvation only at some unknown time in the future.

One trend identifies salvation with a “this worldly” reality of earthly prosperity and well-being. The other extreme would have people look at this salvation as an “other worldly” reality, as something that will take place only in the after-life. For some misguided Christians, passage to this other worldly reality entails a whole lot of frantic efforts on their part, characterized mostly by endless reparation for one’s sins and the sins of all the world, not letting one’s guard down at anytime, for the “end of the world is near.” Christian life is thus reduced to a life of unnecessary suffering … the more suffering, the better … in order to live what they refer to as their vocation to be “victim souls” for Christ. Suffering of any kind, is not to be shunned, but accepted, even sought for. For others on the other extreme, suffering is to be avoided at all cost, and salvation is identified with material abundance and prosperity, which makes salvation purely a this worldly affair.

It is important that our faith is not based on a misguided interpretation of biblical passages taken apart from the totality of the whole of Christian revelation that comes to us both in Scripture and Tradition. A fundamentalist (and narrow) understanding would have us focus solely on apocalyptic eschatology. Were this to be our sole focus, then the emphasis of our understanding would be on the end of THIS world as we know it. If so, then, our sights are to be directed towards the external signs that are spoken of in several passages in the bible, namely, those symbolic events mentioned such as the stars and the moon falling from the firmament up above, or the reality of wars all over the world, or the sinfulness of humankind. What follows logically from this is the need for us to set a date, or predict a definite time for the “end of the world.” Fear, not love, would then lead us to do what it takes to “appease” a basically angry God, whose hand poised for punishment, could not be further restrained anymore. The here-and-now or the present loses its savor, its importance, and value. What matters more than anything else is one’s readiness to face this impending doom of God’s judgment to a sinful humanity. The world, as we know it, is basically sin-stained, evil, and is therefore, not to be given much attention to. Holiness is to be understood as running away from the world, as one does to a plague.

Today’s readings, though, appear to focus more on prophetic eschatology. They speak about the end of a world, as distinct from the end of the world.

Today’s liturgy, very much like that of last Sunday’s, offers us a lesson on perspective, on a balanced biblical and theological outlook on the meaning of life in the world as we know it, and our attitude towards what this same world can offer us.

The right perspective begins with a very important truth. The Book of Wisdom establishes that it was God who saved and glorified Israel: “For when you punished our adversaries, in this you glorified us whom you had summoned.” The Letter to the Hebrews further deepens this truth, by capitalizing on Abraham’s faith, who “obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go.” The same faith led Abraham to follow God’s will: “By faith, Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son…”

All this is an illustration of the perspective of people who have faith, a perspective that enables people to see God in control of history, a God whose future victory and coming is certain, but a God, who is also present and active here and now, in this world, in this life, in these present times. This perspective of faith would have us acclaim with the psalmist: “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be His own.” This perspective of faith would also lead us to appreciate, accept, and enjoy the world which is the fruit of His creation. Legitimate pleasures in this world and in this life are not necessarily bad and sinful. The world, per se, is not evil, for God can never create evil. By itself, it ought not to be despised and avoided. For this is the world that the Lord has given us, the place of our salvation, the locus and starting point of our search for holiness and union with God.

To live with the perspective of faith, however, does not mean living irresponsibly and without the need for any parameters, without any form of concrete moral and spiritual boundaries. To live by faith, as the same readings tell us, is really to live in vigilance, in an attitude of hopeful watching. This right perspective would have us be careful about absolutizing material goods. This right perspective would have us put possessions and belongings in the right place. They are important alright, and definitely useful – even, needed. But they must be seen in their right context: “Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.” In other words, compared to the “pearl of great price,” material wealth, and the search for it, ought to take a back seat.

Christian life, then, at least as far as today’s readings are concerned, has to do with living in faith in the here-and-now and in the “already,” and watching in hope for the hereafter, for the “not yet” of this same faith. At bottom, it has to do with a sense of balance, that comes from a right perspective of things, events, people, material goods, and the world. With so much and something so great in store for us believers, we would do well to be reminded: “Stay awake and be ready! For you do not know on what day the Son of Man will come.” (Communion antiphon)