DEATH AND DECAY OR LIFE AND FORGIVENESS?
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
September 11, 2011
N.B. I am posting this in advance as I am not sure I can post anything during my three week travels from place to place in three different countries.
Death and decay, wrath and anger, unforgiveness and vengefulness seem to be the rule of the day in our times. As we commemorate the 10th year of the ignominious mass murder done on the World Trade Center twin towers in New York, we see the undeniable reality of a world enveloped in a culture of death and decay – and more!
We all have stood witness to at least some of it … the unforgiveness, the selfishness, the insatiable greed of people who think not much about the common good. In the Philippines, for example, the reality of people in the know who get away with a whole lot of things (including almost 2,000 containers) that bleed the country dry of potential revenue and concomitant chance for it to join the league of respectable and respected nations all over the world, stares us all in the face, despite the vociferous claims (and, I must add, some level of good example) to integrity and honesty of the current leadership.
The reality is just as Sirach paints it, with words that sink deep into the marrow of our collective consciousness: “Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.”
We are a sinful people. And the daily news simply reminds us of this common lot of all sons and daughters of Eve and Adam. Despite the passionate pleadings and declarations from St. Paul, that “none of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself,” we know all too well, that it is some kind of a “free for all” out there in a world populated by sinners like you and me, who are out to make a fast buck where opportunity shows itself.
When I hear former students and friends talk about their disappointments with government, with her leaders, with Church leaders and pastors, especially those who wear miters, I get a gnawing gut-wrenching feeling deep inside … How true … How sad … Yet how even sadder for men and women of little faith to be carried away by the faults and failings of a few, and who take resort to generalizations and lump everybody in one bloody heap, like everyone, as in everyone, is depraved and sinful to the bone.
Some still make much of the so-called Pajeros, and since there were no Pajeros, they make much of one single Montero, and speak endlessly about the corruption and the depravity of the men of the cloth. They make such a lot of shrill noise about stocks owned by bishops, not knowing that as ordinaries of their respective dioceses, they are technically known as “corporation soles” and thus everything is legally titled to the “Roman Catholic bishop” of this or that diocese, and that whatever money some of them do have in stocks are not really their own personal money, but of the people they serve as pastors. But half truths are, of course, always worse than lies.
I feel sad that there are managers and people who lord it over others who are manipulative and greedy, as the gospel passage of today tells us. Death and decay is what they glory in and they make a killing of other people’s ignorance and guileless simplicity. I feel sad that there are men of the cloth who go overboard and act in exactly the same manner as worldly rulers. But I feel even sadder when even those who claim to be catholics and believers, generalize and lump the whole Church together with the failings of a few of us.
Today, though, death and decay, wrath and anger are not what the readings and the entire liturgy glory in. Today’s liturgy, like every liturgical celebration, glories in God, the “Lord who is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion.”
We need to grow a little more in compassion … The level of discourse in almost everything now, is very shrill – from the economy down to politics. There is a whole lot of wrath and anger, now that there is not enough money to go around, now that the job market is shrinking, and opportunities and getting scarce everywhere.
We need to grow a little more in compassion, now that we bleed each other dry because of so much expectation from one another. Leaders of governments are expected to make miracles and clean up house in a few months – to clean up messes that took more than half a dozen national leaders in the past to create!
We expect too much from one another, and when we do not see results, we deal out death and decay – the very same things we denounce in others. What we were given so generously – compassion from above – is what we cannot give to others who owe us much much less.
I am the first to beat my breast in this. I still nurture hurts and still keep a record of past slights and nurse more than just a little unforgiveness in my heart. It is so hard, like I told you these past three weeks, to forgive someone who has your life miserable, for no apparent reason – at least reasons that you know not of.
Take heart my brothers and sisters. We are in the same boat. The Church is a community of saints and sinners, and last thing I heard is, saints are nothing more than sinners who kept on trying! In the meantime, take your pick: death and decay, or life and forgiveness?