18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
July 31, 2011
N.B.This reflection is dedicated to my 30 students of Fundamental Morals, 1st semester, SY 2011-2012 at DON BOSCO CENTER OF STUDIES, PARANAQUE CITY, Philippines
I write as I proctor the final exams of my students in a condensed course on Fundamental Moral Theology, feeling happy that it is done, whilst at the same time feeling sad, not that it's over, but that there remains so much to cover. I cannot deny that the recent events in my country have posed without let-up so many social and personal moral issues that lent so much relevance and timeliness to the topics we were discussing in class.
We were engaged on a daily basis since classes began, in an ongoing attempt at doing a "fusion of horizons" a la Gadamer - to allow the cold and dry principles of moral reflection come to life in the concrete - if, depressing - realities that jut out of the major dailies and which dot the airlanes almost to the point of saturation.
Some of my friends mistakenly think that I am a pessimist when I write. They only see the "negativities" that they think I expose in my homilies. They don't see that before I can give them the good news, I have to start with the bad news, sort of, and do, like I said above, a fusion of horizons in Gadamer's tradition.
A homily should breach the gnawing gap between the two ... God's horizon and the sinful, weak, and broken human horizon.
Let us start, at the risk of being passed off as a pessimist, with the human horizon ... What do we see? A world battered by sinfulness ... a pacifist country like Norway whose tradition of pacifism gets shattered all of a sudden by a home-grown terrorist who simply snuffed out the lives of 92 people in a few minutes ... a world of bullies who thrown their weight around where resources are available, never mind if the territory being claimed is also claimed by other countries ... governments in a deadlock, with parties fighting each other for supremacy in the next general elections, never mind if the whole world is teetering on edge on account of the precarious economic situation ... a country like ours where cases of corruption and abuse of power slowly unravel threatening to totally undermine all confidence in institutions and structures of governance and the power of the state to push forward the common good.
The human horizon is nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else but the condition of Eden all over again.
But let us see the Divine horizon ... We see it as a situation of Eden in reverse, not from the point of view of Adam and Eve who did the unthinkable, but from the point of view of God, walking in the cool afternoon breeze, asking that soul-searching and caring question: "Where are you, Adam?" This, as far as we can tell, is not a statement of condemnation, but a caring question that shows the solicitude of a loving and forgiving God, who calls, invites, and gently prods us all to gradual realization.
This is the good news that juts out of the first reading ... In six sentences, the word "come" was used 4 times. The invitation is addressed to the "thirsty," the penniless, the hungry. And the whole point of the invitation leads to the concept of "covenant," an agreement shattered by sin, but a contract that God wants to be "renewed."
This call is personal and essential. Whilst sin divides and separates, the call to love unites, and breaches the gnawing gap between us and God. Indeed, it is so binding and unifying and powerful that St. Paul rhetorically and passionately asks his readers: "What will separate us from the love of Christ?" His answer? Nothing!
Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ ... not massive corruption of people then and now ... not the manipulative and untruthful media who can be paid by PR experts and spin masters to "shock and awe" unsuspecting and clueless masses, and who are led to believe whatever lie is repeated often enough that becomes truth ... not tabloidism and cheap sensationalism even from the highest officer of the land who seems to revel in bombshells that destroy people's reputation all on account of poorly studied half-truths that then become dogma to most people ... not anguish at the realization that our country has been taken for a ride by greedy, selfish, and self-serving "public servants" who only bled the country dry for years, even decades! ... not persecution, including the kind of Catholic Church bashing that seems to be fashionable nowadays, done even by individuals who describe themselves as catholics, mind you, "with a clear conscience!" ... not famine for so many poor people who can only afford to feast on low quality food that slowly makes them sicker and sicker, and thus, poorer! .... not nakedness suffered by teeming masses who have no solid and reliable roofs over their heads, whose shanties are good only till the next heavy rains that now are getting more and more frequent ... not peril that seems to be the worst nightmare of everyone who seems to be so vulnerable to organized crimes syndicates that have connections with people in high places ... not the sword of those who can kill the body, but not the soul, including the swords of political families who have for decades staked their permanent claim to "public service" in their respective constituencies ...
St. Paul tells that there is simply nothing that "will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Need I say more? Indeed, God does! Not even suffering by beheading could separate John the Baptist from the God he served faithfully. The Gospel tells us that not even distance could matter to people who had set out to heed, listen and seek words that led to life in its fullness ... The people that hung on the lips of the Lord, followed him, and went walking on the other side of the lake, only to listen to him speak, and teach, and preach.
Yes, there is more ... Not even a deserted place with no provisions could prevent the Lord from effecting a miracle of sustenance. He became an instant caterer and produced food from the meager resources like five loaves and two fish that the resourceful disciples had discovered and offered!
This is the horizon that I wish to leave with you today. This is the good news I would want my students to take home with them from this day onwards ... a message that I ended my formal classes with yesterday, summed up in that beautiful Il Divo song that speaks of hope ...
I would like to believe that God speaks to us today with endearing words that say: COME, HEED, LISTEN, & LIVE! I would like, furthermore, to believe that it is now His turn to tell us JE CROIS EN TOI! (I BELIEVE IN YOU!)
Tout seul, tu t'en iras tout seul;
Coeur ouvert a l'univers!
Poursuis ta quete sans regarder derriere
N'attends pas que le jour se leve
Suis ton etoile, va jusqu'on ton reve t'emporte
Un jour tu le toucheras. si tu crois, si tu crois, si tu crois en toi!
Suis la lumiere; n'eteins pas la flamme que te portes;
Au fonds de toi souviens-toi
Que je crois, que je crois, que je crois en toi!
(All alone, you will go your way alone
But go with a heart open to the universe!
Follow your dream without looking back
No need to wait for the day to shine.
Follow your star, go where your dreams lead you.
One day you will touch it, if you believe in yourself.
Follow your light; do not put off the flame you carry
Deep inside you, remember
That I believe, I believe, I believe in you!)