AN UNDERSTANDING HEART TO JUDGE AND DISCERN

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time(A)
July 24, 2011

Last week, I gave free rein to the hope that is in me despite the so many problems that beset the Church, the country, on account of the saints and sinners (including me) that make up the Church, almost brought down to her knees by a barrage of media-instigated, PR machinery guided demolition job that started with two letters of request from a Bishop addressed to the former President. A “lapse of judgment” on his part, along with the well-meaning requests born of real needs from far-flung mountainous and remote dioceses both in the north and the south, became cannon fodder for a PR firm intent and bent on humiliating the institutional Church.

The 7 bishops responded to the humiliating half-truths that were, as usual, worse than whole lies, by resorting to the Christian way – by humbling themselves even more, even as they spoke out the truth in charity. They begged for apologies to the people of God, both to those who remained loyal believers who chose steadfastly to belong to a Church populated by saints and sinners, and to those who claimed to believe, but who really never belonged, by choosing to believe only those truths that pleased them and suited them.


The bishops chose to follow the spirit of King Solomon, who begged the Lord Yahweh for “an understanding heart to judge [your people], and to distinguish right from wrong.” This, the bishops asked, even as they begged the people who were hurt and offended by the turn of events, for apologies.


Wisdom … This is what Solomon begged for, and got from the Lord. God was definitely One who would be generous when it comes to requests that are not self-serving, not self-aggrandizing, but favors that would stand to benefit others. Today, we thank this same God, for in the words of St. Paul, “we know that all things work for good for those who love God.”


We thank God for the wisdom of our leaders to “walk humbly before the Lord” and His people. They were not guilty of any illegal activity. Just about the only thing blameworthy on anyone’s part was just that one “lapse of judgment,” that, if anything, only proved that that bishop was apparently too close for comfort to the woman then in power. Just about the only thing that we can pin him on, was about the imprudence and the impropriety in asking for an SUV, presumably, not for his own personal use, but for the use of the office of the Bishop, who, after all, was engaged in duties, not limited to pastoral, but also tasks that went beyond his office in a wide territorial area.


We thank God that the truth came out. We thank God that this sordid affair happened, for it backfired on the very ones who spent half a billion pesos to implicate the institutional Church with the massive misappropriation of funds, for which the 6.9 millions, all told, appeared puny and minuscule, given the almost two billions they need to account for.


We thank God for the gift of the paschal mystery of the Risen Lord. Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled, crucified … He died and rose triumphant. God’s answer to this humiliation was further humility, further pain, further suffering on the part of His Son. Treated like the ugly and worthless suffering servant, he was humiliated, and his response was to be humbled even more – humility that was utter foolishness whose height of was reached in the utter folly of the cross, but whose soaring product was wisdom that came from the school of suffering.


Wisdom … this is the sort that comes from the certainty that everything works for the good for all those who love God.


Wisdom …  this is the capacity of people who can discern between right and wrong, and not reduce morality to a media blitz, a Pharisaical trial by publicity, even if the “facts” presented are invented and padded, and made more sensational to attract the feeding frenzy of people who, in the first place, refused to belong, even as they claim to believe.

Wisdom … this is what we need to understand that the Church we belong to is the Kingdom-of-God-in-waiting, the Kingdom-now-here but whose fulfillment is not yet ours. This is what we need to understand that this same institutional Church is one where, like in the sea, one can catch all kinds of fishes, some good, some bad; some promising, and some rotten to the core, but all on the way towards definitive salvation.

Wisdom … this is what Solomon begged for. This is what we all need to beg God for, for us to understand that this Kingdom is compared to a treasure buried in the field, that we all need to work so that it becomes ours!

Wisdom … this is what we need, to be able to discern right from wrong; to be able to tell the sensational and the spurious, designed to instigate anger and suspicion, and the true and the beautiful – if hurtful – so that all may be uplifted to faith, hope, and love.

I submit one of the seven bishops did an imprudent act – to dance paltsy waltsy with the woman then in power. I submit there was also some imprudence in accepting money from PCSO. I submit that not all of us priests (including me) are shining examples of holiness and simplicity. I submit that we need more than just a dose of humility and other virtues.


But even as we, your pastors, now ask the Lord for wisdom “to judge the people and to distinguish right from wrong,” I beg the Lord the same for the lay faithful, including those who claim to believe, but who really do not belong, including those who claim to be catholics, but who decided to “teach the Bishops a lesson for going against the RH Bill” …


Yes, in this Mass, we beg the Lord for this wisdom, like Solomon did … like we all do right now, so that we ALL, including the lay faithful, may understand that at the end, there will be a final reckoning, and that there will be a final separation between worthy and unworthy members that will take place at the end of time. And when that time comes, it is not only the seven bishops who will be held accountable, but each and everyone of us, accusers and the accused, the maligners and the maligned, the wheat and the weeds, the good and the bad.


That means “you and I.”

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