20th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (B)
August 19, 2012
THE HOUSE THAT WE ARE CALLED TO BUILD!
We all make mistakes. The human capacity for error stays with us for as long as we live in and move around mortal earth. To err is, indeed, quintessentially, human! Sometimes, in my quiet moments, the memory of the many times I committed monumental mistakes haunts me. Whilst I cannot say I want to recall them, such memories come unbidden, uninvited, and unwanted. At those instances, I must admit, a flurry of self-embarrassment fills me from head to toe.
But I must tell you, too, that I learned immensely from those mistakes. Some of those learnings are still in time for me to do something about, like having learned to hold my tongue on particular tension-filled situations. But there, too, are some learnings that I cannot do anything about anymore, like the learning that I got already as an adult, that it is never wise, nor good – and, definitely not beneficial – to be playing with mercury taken from disposed of thermometers! I am sure I am not alone in admitting this. Most of my contemporaries did the same – unknowingly, unwittingly, oblivious of its deleterious effects on one’s health.
But the learning experience sure made me wiser – for others. I know better now than to allow children to be playing with things like asbestos, toys laced with leaded paints, mercury, and the like.
Mistakes and missteps brought me more than just learning. They afforded me seeds and nuggets of wisdom. And wisdom has, in many ways, been behind the building of the house that is me, the house, too, that is the society where I belong, and the house of learning born of experience that I still am building!
Yes! God is not done with me yet. 34 years teaching, and almost 30 years as a priest do not guarantee my being the best, but they do help as I endeavor, up till now, to make a “better version of myself,” each time, every time, while I still have time.
Today, the readings, for me, stand for this call from the Lord to become the best version of ourselves, via a deep understanding that learning alone will not give anyone. Learning and being schooled really come from our own human desires. One sets out to get a degree. One wants to grab a title and a piece of paper that others may not have.
But today, the readings tell us about what God desires for us. And when we speak about God’s desires for us, we refer to something more, something higher, something qualitatively superior to mere human, earthly and material learning. God calls us to wisdom. God calls us to build the house of His dreams on the foundations of wisdom, on the pillars of authentic understanding, and on the pylons of Godly fear, and genuine higher values and sublime truths!
The wisdom of this world would have us build on the shifting sand of earthly, material values. The worldly-wise of our days and times would have our people buy into the seemingly cogent and convincing voices that show impending doom with so many births, so much poverty, and so many children growing up in utter misery and want all over the country. Armed with statistics and studies whose provenance is, for the most part, questionable, the learned and schooled of this world, would have the whole country subscribe to an ideology and stand that are based on values, that while not evil or wrong in themselves, are nevertheless given priority over values that cater to a totally different worldview that comprises more than the here and the now, to include the hereafter.
The heated arguments for or against such worldly wisdom, even from among the ranks that are to be expected never to go against the grain, sort of, show us how shrill the level of discussion is, with so much emotions being invested in it. Both sides are not without blame in terms of using methods that may, at times, even be less than Christian. Name-calling, muck-raking, and labeling seem to all have gotten out of hand in many sectors. Decency in many sectors has gotten out the window of prudence and impassioned discourse. The very wisdom that both parties claim allegiance to, has been debunked and revealed to be no more than tasteless opinionated and emotional arguments designed to hit home and attack, not the message, but the messenger. Bishops and priests are all lumped as pedophiles and other unsavory titles, and old urban legends against the institutional Church are recycled, even without the modicum of objective documentation. The other side, on the other hand, are branded as “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” or as “liars” and a brood of “intellectually dishonest” bigots and fanatics.
Whichever side one is, one can never deny that each one wants to legitimately build an equally legit house. I, too, desire prosperity for the Filipino people. I, too, am the first one to long for more parks and recreation centers, for a nation populated by highly educated and healthy, and happy individuals, where teeming masses of the great unwashed do not lord it over waterways, esteros, and public lands – a nation where children can roam around freely and in peace, and who no longer have to eke out a living for their family beginning at 6 years old.
But no matter how great MY desire is, I need to focus first on God’s own desires for us. The liturgy of today reminds us, precisely, of this higher desire of God for His people. God wants us to have genuine, authentic wisdom, not just s shallow grasp of statistics that make our human desires grow stronger … human desires that all the more lead us to take short-cuts that undermine the very foundations of the wisdom He has come to bring us.
Yes, humanly speaking we want more prosperity. Yes, humanly speaking, we want more health for our people (not only women). But we also want our Filipino men to have greater responsibility, greater inner freedom, and a greater role in building the house of their family life, with spiritual and higher values intact, not blown to smithereens by decisions that are not theirs to make, but the imposition of the powerful state. Whilst the legislation that some quarters of our leadership are pushing attempts really to solve gargantuan problems, what is not clear is whether or not, adopting it would really lead to our human desires, albeit so powerful right now, and so utterly convincing to many people.
I have one thing sure, though, for today. The God who calls us to heavenly wisdom, also gives us the method, the means, and the way to achieve it, in God’s own good time, in our own inner sense of inner freedom – the glorious liberty of the children of God.
I speak of the Eucharist. I speak of Him who invites us today, to really “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” I speak about His desire for us to build, not a house based on the shifting sands of statistics and figures, but a house built on solid, genuine, authentic, and spiritual values that go beyond the here and the now, towards the hereafter.
This house of faith, this house surrounded by authentic Christian spiritual, and heavenly values is built, not on earthly, but heavenly wisdom, even as the bread we are called to eat, is no more, no less, and no one else but Him, the “living bread that came down from heaven.”
Won’t you help him today to build the house that can only be built on this wisdom?