August 5, 2012
18th Sunday Year B
FOOD THAT PERISHES, OR FOOD THAT ENDURES?
We complain about many things. We complain about the traffic, now getting worse and worse by the day. We complained a lot last week when a “shallow low pressure area” (whatever that means, caught us all off-guard) and wrought havoc all over complacent Metro Manila area. We complain about leaders when they don’t deliver as promised. We rant and rave about a multiplicity of things, mostly, to be sure, about things that don’t last … things that don’t matter much except satisfy us for a short while, and not much more.
The Israelites were brought out willingly from slavery in Egypt. They were not forced. They were not misled. They were not prevailed upon. But soon, the complaints started pouring, even as manna kept coming. The bitterness got growing, and the growling became more intense, even as the quails kept them filled – but never satisfied!
The complaints were all directed at Moses! Soon they forgot the very reason why they were out there in the desert. They forgot that they were on a journey towards something else, something more, something greater than what they could scrounge up in the lean and mean desert experience.
But we human beings, like the Israelites, are an unsatisfied lot. Whist we are filled, we remain ever unfulfilled. Whilst we are fed, we seem to be always fed-up with the usual, the routinary, and the ordinary. We always want more. We always look for the ultimate. We keep on aiming for the best, the greatest, the highest, the most sublime, the most supreme! Isn’t that what the summer Olympics is all about? It is all about citius, altius, fortius! … faster, higher, stronger!
Nothing bad. Nothing sinful, to be sure … There is nothing patently wrong in using our best efforts at aiming for the best. Nothing wrong in using our God-given intelligence to look for more, the better, and the greater.
But being satisfied with what one has, or what one is given is something else. It is about detachment. It is about something nobler that humans like us are really capable of doing. It is about being fulfilled, while not necessarily being filled in a way we expect.
Time was when cellphones were just used … well … to make phone calls. Nowadays, cellphones have become smart and people even smarter. Many of us won’t settle for anything less than a smartphone. And many more cannot stand the idea of being stuck forever with a phone that is more than six moths old, left behind by the latest technological marvel.
Time, too, was when the Israelites were happy with what they got – fine flakes for food in the morning and tasty quails toward sundown. Soon, they got tired of them, even as we get tired of old tablets that don’t work with the latest Android or iOS!
Today, there is definitely good news that gives the most definitive answer to all our searchings.
What do we really look for? Let us name a few. Let us be honest. Let us be sincere.
We want the good life. We want the prosperous life. We want a neat life, uncluttered by teeming masses of poor, dirty children out in the streets. We want more parks and recreation centers, not relocation sites for what we don’t directly call parasites in our society. We are too politically correct to refer to them as such. But any other name, no matter how sweet sounding, refers to the same reality. We don’t want too many children whom no one can afford to send to school – and supply with the latest gizmos and gadgets. We don’t want too many of them to crowd our classrooms that are in the first place lacking all over the country.
We want to live the great American dream … sprawling suburbs … healthy women who won’t ever have to die in the process of childbearing … We want to have our cake and eat it, too. We want to enjoy life, untrammeled by so much responsibilities and unhampered by too many demands from so many poor people around us.
We want to be filled. Yes! We want to be rich. We want to be happy. And we don’t want so many people to remind us to be guilty for being such, for wallowing in creature comfort, while so many are living in hovels and dwellings not fit for human dignity!
And so we complain. And so we look for solutions. We don’t want to eat quails each and every single day. We don’t want them fine flakes for food that come to us in the hoar frost each morning. We want designer clothes, designer food, gourmet fare, and everything that is fit for a king! And so we want the RH bill passed into law. We look for the best. Nothing wrong therein! Nothing sinful … nothing amiss … nothing morally wrong!
The Church is grossly misunderstood all the time, all this time – particularly in these tumultuous times, when the nation is divided right smack in the middle. The Church is seen as imposing, as demanding, as being out of touch with the times, as living in the Middle Ages.
And yet, life as we know it, as we learn from Scripture, is not only all about the here and the now. Most people nowadays live in a world of only two dimensions – the here and the now – when in fact, there ought to be three – to include the hereafter. That means that the values we ought to look for ought to go beyond the here and the now, and answer also for the hereafter. To be focused on the here and the now is to work only for food that perishes, and not for food that endures to eternal life.
The readings today tell us a mouthful. First, complaining is very human – the easiest thing for us to do as humans, and, by the way, God does not mind. He does not become less a God when we complain to Him. Second, we forget all too easily. Here’s a gentle reminder and nudge from Paul: “you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.” We forget that life is much more than just about wallowing in creaturely comfort and luxury. We forget that life much more than being filled.
Today, the Gospel reminds us what his more is about. It is about getting what will ultimately fulfill us, not only fill us. God reminds us that there are values that go beyond merely having, and getting our fill. These are heavenly values that the Eucharist, the food that gives life everlasting, gives to those who believe.
Even as the nation is divided, our hearts and minds colored by faith, hope, and love remain steadfast. We stand as one, convinced that the Lord gives us bread from heaven, and that “the hand of the Lord feeds us; He answers all our needs.”
Stand proud and tall my dear friends. You might not be filled right now. You might not be satisfied right now, but we are on the way towards being fulfilled. For ever. For always. For all days. For all time. That is a pledge and a promise of Eucharist, for in the Eucharist, “nobis pignus datur futurae gloriae” – the pledge of future glory is given to us!
August 4, 2012
National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians
Paranaque City, PHILIPPINES