23rd Sunday Year B
September 9, 2012


Truth to tell, we never run out of reasons, on occasion, to be scared. Just last week, a big quake jolted many people from Davao down south, all the way up north to Baguio City. Whilst it was powerful enough to jar everyone’s nerves, fortunately, it was too far off to sea to create what could very well have been great damage to life and property on a wide swath of Philippine territory.

A few weeks after the Sendong tragedy last year in CDO and Iligan, I, together with a group of young priests on immersion and ongoing formation, was there for a few days. The sight of what used to be flourishing villages all washed away, or rammed to smithereens by logs that came cascading down the mountains of Bukidnon, made our hearts sink. But what really rended our hearts were stories of children, who, upon hearing the rains fall, would all be racked by intense panic and anxiety (signs of some form of PTSD!), and would all cry aloud in fear!

I don’t remember when it was that I really was mortally afraid of something. But I faintly remember being alone in a dark room, deep into the night, and hearing loud voices in the house. I was probably 4 or 5 years old then. The dark, being alone in a room with no one beside me, the loud noises coming from outside, and what seemed like panicky, fearful voices about something I knew nothing about – all made me freeze and break out into a cold sweat.

I don’t remember what it was that made me scared, but I remember the feeling. The children in Cagayan de Oro City, also probably didn’t know what exactly they were afraid of, but the rains sure had a way of reminding them about the dreaded feeling.

Today, the readings are gently reassuring. For one, they speak about healing – healing from so many ills, including, of course, fears of all  kinds.

What could these fears mean for us? I can think offhand, of at least the following …

First, we are all afraid to get sick. One proof of this is the proliferation of an infinite number of supplements, both local and foreign manufactured. Local and international pharma companies are making a killing manufacturing and selling all those medicines, whether essential or supplemental. Many would-be parents are mortally afraid to have abnormal children, and so, even if it is really immoral in some cases, they subject their fetuses to all sorts of invasive and non-invasive procedures, just to assure that their kids won’t have the equivalent of that speech impediment that the gospel today speaks about.

Second, we are afraid to be treated as less that we think we are. We are allergic to all sorts of partialities and biases. We suffer a lot when we are ignored, when we are treated less than how others of greater means are treated. We all want recognition and affirmation, and we feel it terribly when we are not affirmed accordingly.

Been there; done that! I am no spring chicken anymore … been 34 years educating and 30 years a priest. With all these years behind me, you would think I ought not to have any fears anymore! But I confess I still do. It is all part of being human. I am afraid to get old and useless. I am afraid of being taken care of by others. Being naturally self-reliant and in many ways, also, self-sufficient, I am terrified at having to depend on others for any and every little thing.

I need healing. I need reassurance. I need precisely what all three readings today remind us of. I need the good news and the reassurance that it can bring me, especially in these trying times, when just about everybody’s aim to is to bash the Church and us, her ministers. I need to be reminded, like all of you my readers and followers need to be reminded.

Thus I would like to say “to those whose hearts are frightened” … to myself, and to you all … It is no secret that as human beings, we also get a little down and out, especially when all accusations (some of them undeniably true), are hurled against us, for we take a stand against certain contentious issues, and side by Holy Mother Church!

“Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.”

He is on the side of those who suffer, on the side of those who are sidetracked. Through James, God reminds us: “Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?”

And Christ, definitely, is on the side of the downtrodden. He came to heal. He came to save. He came to bridge the gap between those who have and those who have not. And He makes no secret about his preferences … He favors the one who is needy, the one who needs help, the one who needs a boost.

At times, we don’t need to look too far. In fact, at times like these, we can very well look at ourselves and see ourselves for who really we are: needy, poor in many ways, and utterly dependent on His mercy and compassion.

He has a consoling and healing word for us: “Ephphatha! Be opened!”

This is a word for us and all those whose hearts are frightened! Thanks be to God!


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