THE TIME OF OUR SOJOURNING
3rd Sunday of Easter (A)
May 8, 2011
“Conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning.” (1 Pt 1:17)
I have lived for considerable lengths of time in different places all over the world. The first part of my childhood was spent in two places – in the boonies of Cavite in Mendez, just a skip, a hop, and a jump away from its better known neighbor, Tagaytay City, and in the burgeoning place called part of “Greater Manila” then, Makati, Rizal!
But then as God had obviously planned it, I lived for three solid years in Bacolor, Pampanga, followed by 7 straight years in Canlubang, Laguna. From then on, it was a case of sojourning in many other different places, although I had to stay in Canlubang an additional 13 years to those earlier seven years. The most memorable, of course, in retrospect and in relation to my topic at hand, was my – take note – “soggiorno” in Rome, Italy, for further studies.
As I write, my current “soggiorno” is on the island of Guam, doing what I was doing when I was but 31 years old – being Principal of a High School on island.
Sojourn, as the word implies, has to do, not with permanence, but with transitoriness. It connotes an erstwhile arrangement as one goes through a more permanent reality – the fact that one goes through an ongoing journey that could take him or her to other different places. Sojourn means that one is not here or there to stay, but here or there for the meantime, for one is ever on the move, one is always on the way towards something more, something better, something different, and something definitive!
Sojourn, in this way, connotes more than transitoriness then, but, actually may point to hope for some defined and definite future.
This is the good news for today that for me merits a little more reflection.
But before we can even talk of the good news, we need to frame it in the context of reality. We need to do a reality check. Good news was never meant to be a “pie in the sky,” a palliative for what is unacceptable, what is deplorable, and what is impossible to do anything about!
Good news is good news despite what seems to be an ineluctable reality of the here and now.
And as one, who has “been there; done that,” I can assure my readers that we are not without any signs of what Elaine Robinson calls the “contours of hopelessness” that “dot the landscape of our lives.”
I remember many moons ago. We went for a “national trek” to one famous Philippine mountain down south. We were led by what we thought was a group of reliable guides … all three hundred of us. But apparently, we were duped. It was a well-set up trap. By the time we got to about 3,000 feet above sea level, we were met by a big surprise that became a disappointment in no time. We were stopped in our tracks. We could not continue on. The armed group lost no time in collecting our VHF radios, cameras, and everything valuable. Our guides actually led us to disappointment.
I go back many more years … when Pasig river teemed with fish and when fishermen with real nets and dingy boats still plied their trade in Makati, Rizal! A neighbor enticed us kids (I was no more than 6 or 7 then!) to go with him for a swim at the river. Unbeknownst to me, an alert neighbor who owned the corner “sari-sari” store (convenience store) saw me with the group and proceeded to report on me. When I got home, I got a beating from my grandmother that I never forgot all my life! But I learned my lesson.
And one core lesson among several was this … There are guides who lead to the light, and guides that lead to the dark. There are those who really help us see the way and the destination, and those who mislead … those who lead us to short-term goals and those who really lead us to goals that go beyond the here and the now, goals that really lead to life as God wanted us to have. Such eternal goals that God ordained for us are the sort that go beyond mere material concerns, but which really cater to the total good of our humanity, called as we are, to be images and likenesses of God Himself.
Leaders would like us now to embrace the RH bill and turn it into law. Assuredly, there are lots of good things from the bill. But is it good enough, on the long haul? It may do good on the short term, and do good for people here and now, but does it serve the best interests of humanity as a whole? Or does it serve the interests of the people only here and now? Guides and shepherds ought to lead us to the total good. They ought to show us the bigger picture and cater to that which really helps humanity become a better version of itself, not just a richer, more comfortable life on the short haul.
This is the sort of leadership and shepherding that Mother Church does for us, the same shepherding that the Risen Lord shows us today. But there is more … In today’s gospel passage, we are told about two discouraged and despondent disciples. They felt beaten. They were down and out. And like me, on occasion, they probably thought that all is lost, and there won’t be anything anymore worth looking forward to. They saw, not just “contours” but “mountains” of hopelessness!
But the Risen Lord came and journeyed with them … in their loss, in their pain, in their discouragement and even despair.
I have been through a number of jarring incidences in my own journey called life. I have been through pain and discouragement myself, and the worst of them, ironically came from the very Church (or congregation) that I served and loved. The Church may be a Mother and Teacher, but superiors and other members of the Church are definitely not! Politics, too, the kind that is dirty, propelled by that engine called envy, is not a monopoly of the disappointing men and women that make up so-called civil society.
But in those moments of pain, when I wanted to curse everyone and everything, I just knew that the only real and convincing solace I did find, was the one that the Lord provided. He knew pain. He knew suffering. He knew rejection. He stared hatred from others in the face, even from those who had no reason whatsoever to be so spiteful of him. And He was the only one who could have done that journey to Emmaus. Convincingly. Really. Definitely!
And He came armed with the best gift ever! The gift of brokenness and the gift of the breaking of the bread! Only He who was broken could convincingly break bread for those who, like Him, were broken!
I know that my Savior lives! For I can see it in the eyes of those who suffer and yet believe. I can see it in those who question so many things, but still believe, like those who have so many questions about the pro-life position of the Church, but still believe! They are broken. They are bruised by members of the Church – even leaders – who could be so uncaring and so brusque and insensitive, but these are one who now prove to the world that the Lord lives … that Jesus Risen is Lord … and that in the meantime, in this earthly, temporary sojourn, we will yet see the marvels that await those who believe. They know better as to “conduct themselves with reverence during the time of their sojourning.”