RISE, FLEE, AND STAY!


Feast of the Holy Family (A)
December 29, 2013

RISE, FLEE, AND STAY!

Something serious and potentially far-encompassing in scope is happening in our culture. Today’s issue of Pugad Baboy captures some of it, but not fully. People still flock to the Church during the nine-day preparation period, but there are serious signs worship of God, honoring the saints, and participating in the liturgy are not their topmost goals. Many don’t even care to go in and use the pews inside … no, they stand outside or sit on a bench, ready to respond to texts and Viber and Tango alerts. According to Pugad Baboy comic strip, there are those who drive in, remain seated in their cars, and look more or less toward the direction of the altar, and “attend” Mass from a distance.

I talked about this issue on Christmas morning, when huge malls like the Mall of Asia, were slated to be open all day of Christmas. I said that children behave in exactly the same way they do at malls as they do inside Churches. First, they have lots of food with them. Second, with their toys in tow, who would ever feel bored at Mass in Church? They run around, scream to their hearts’ delight, and protest angrily when they don’t get to play, or eat, or otherwise do their thing, including competing with the priest’s homily by making tantrums for the whole world to hear. And if all else fails, why, there is the ubiquitous iPad, or android tablet, to keep them entertained while Mass is going on, and the elders are sleeping.

Trouble marred the Holy Family’s life early on. No sooner had the boy been born than Herod started getting anxiety attacks on account of insecurity issues. The boy was a threat, and threats need to be done away with. The culture of insecurity, the malady of anxiety, psychologists now say, seeks its own level. Anxiety needs to be bound, and the more one binds it, the more it spreads like wildfire; the more people get to be anxious themselves. And anxiety naturally looks for someone to dump itself on – primarily the weakest, the most vulnerable, the most powerless.

But God, the Bible says, is always on the side of the weak, the helpless and the hopeless. God is on the side of the poor, the suffering, the downtrodden, the widow, and the orphan. And God sends His messenger to the head of the family, Joseph, who once was also afraid, mortally afraid, and on account of fear, almost dumped the girl of his dreams. This time around, fear was no longer the issue, but prompt action: “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.”

The culture was not helping them any. The culture was oppressive, and very literally, deadly to the boy. He needed to act, and fast. He was told to “rise.” He was told to “flee.” Action … positive action in defense of life … in defense of what was right, and rightfully the helpless child’s.

This is what the culture is like in our times. It is deadly … deadly to mores, deadly to right worship, when just about everyone now simply stands and refuses at least to bow down or kneel in the presence of the Divine. The culture has been secularized by the cathedrals of commerce, the malls, and what is right is rendered wrong, and what is wrong is declared right.

This is the culture one “flees.” Ancient spiritual writers have one common sensical advice everytime, to “run away from occasions of sin,” to run away from those who lead one to sin, like one flees from the plague. There is nothing cowardly in this. Even Joseph was told to “flee” and save mother and child.

But Joseph was also told to “stay” … to stay where it was physically safe for his family … to stay where it was culturally and psychologically safe for the child. But more than merely staying, he was really told to be still in God, to be calm and devoid of sinful anxiety, to stay the course and stay in God’s guiding hand.

Families in our times are tempted to veer away from the right course. We are being tempted left and right to do what the rest of the world does, to just follow the blowing of the wind, and the path of least resistance. Everyone is simply told to follow the bandwagon.

The Holy Family was told to make a difference. Joseph was told to rise and flee and stay … to rise and flee from what does not lead to life, to flee from whatever leads to death or “to put to death everything that is not life,” to use the famous words of Thoreau.

I pray that all families today might learn to do the right thing, like what that Fil-Am taxi driver from Pampanga did in Las Vegas. He found 300,000 dollars in his cab, left by a rider. He gave them back. He said he just needed “to do the right thing.”

Joseph, the just man, an obedient man, just did as told, for that was the right thing to do.

Rise now, take our dreams along, and flee from the paths that lead to darkness and non-life, and stay the course with God!

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