REJOICE AND TAKE HEART!



14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
July 3, 2011


Make no mistake about it. The liturgy today rouses us to rejoicing. That is the whole point of the first reading. The second reading alludes to the reason behind all that rejoicing - since our baptism, the Holy Spirit has been dwelling in us as in a temple. But there is one other thing that the third reading would have us remember. Even in times when rejoicing may seem difficult, it is something called for given the words of promise from the Lord: "Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest."

These are words that we need to hold onto, especially now.

It is not just difficult to rejoice in our times. It is most difficult to be a Catholic in our postmodern times. There seems to be a concerted, organized effort at discrediting the Church from all quarters. Despite what history clearly says, contemporary mass media outfits paint a very negative picture of the Church, at times, bordering on the fictitious, and downright malicious. In spite of overwhelming evidence from history, some journalists in our days, keep on hammering about the so-called "riches" of the Church, and her apparent lack of concern for the plight of the poor.

Some time back, a spate of fetuses thrown in high profile churches hogged the headlines, almost as if to insinuate how much the RH bill is needed. Some days back, the banner headlines proclaimed irresponsibly, I might add, the case of the seven 'Pajero bishops" who received donations from the Philipine Charity Sweepstakes Office, associated of course, with the hated past administration which the current one simply loves to demonize, with a lot of help from mainstream media. Of course, what they didn't say is what the same office gave to other religious groupings and "churches" in the country. Even without the benefit of hard evidence, and before the bishops could air their side, the news was bannered like established fact. And even if they were not true, or only partially true, the fact is, more than half of the Filipino people by now, has already taken those insinuations and innuendoes as incontrovertible facts! The damage has been done!

And yet, as good catholics, the Lord today tells us to "rejoice." And there are more than enough reasons for us to do so. Let me tell you some of those reasons.

First, the promise of Zechariah the prophet is very focused ... the King will come, a Savior, whose dominion will be from sea to sea. It has been fulfilled in Christ, and whilst that dominion is not fully established, it has began in and through the  Church. But all this alone, does not give us that much excitement, does it?

Let us look at the other reason that the second reading reminds us of. We are in a position to make a choice, either to live in the flesh or to live in the Spirit, who has made our bodies, His dwelling place, as temples. To live in the flesh is to run our lives using the rules of the material world alone, and not much else. To live in the flesh means to be ruled by desires and to be swayed by sinfulness. We have the power of choice to live in the Spirit, and therefore, to choose life in its fullness.

I would like to encourage my readers to take to heart the words of the Lord today. Despite the seeming impossibility, we are asked to rejoice. This capacity to rejoice belongs to those who are willing to see things from a different perspective, from God's perspective, on whose side ultimate victory and triumph belong. This power to make choices belongs to those who arte willing to set aside the prevailing material rules and choose to be led by rules that come from the spiritual perspective, from God's viewpoint.

As an educator, as a priest and preacher, I need to revel in this call to rejoice. Naturally somewhat pessimistic, I tend to see the negative side of events. I see so many problems in and out of government, in society, in an electorate that is not sufficiently educated to make wise choices, in a culture that is easily swayed by sensational newsbits, and biased sound bites. In a twittering world based on social networking, what is twitted and published is taken hook, line, and sinker, and taken as facts. The bishops are demonized, and the Church teaching authority is discredited, or at least, played down by such a concerted and organized barrage of editorialized opinions masquerading as news.

But I have one more reason today for not giving in to pessimism and discouragement. And it has to do with the words of comfort and promise from the Lord:
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdended, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."


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