Third Sunday Year A
January 26, 2014


Isaiah once more hogs the headlines today. He reports of good things taking place, of light dawning bright once more to places once in gloom: Zebulun and Naphtali. We heard the prophecy not once but at least twice during, or towards the Christmas season.

Mathew prophesies not, but reports, a fact – the factual and actual fulfillment of what Isaiah could only speak about prospectively. The Lord left his childhood village and went to Capernaum, in the environs of Zebulun and Naphtali, once forlorn and forgotten places of no major consequence.

Peter and Andrew, James and John could as well have been what Zebulun and Naphtali were like – inconsequential, unknown, and uncelebrated. Once upon a time, students flocked to teachers and revered mentors and jockeyed for the closest position to their masters and gurus. But Matthew tells us otherwise. The Master called the twin duos. We are told that the Master who called was immediately followed. The four made a clean double-breasted break: with family and livelihood. They left not only their father, but also their fishing nets and all.

When was the last time you did a similar thing? I remember being told to do things as a child very often. I used to hem and haw, bargain and beg, plead and pestered to be given a break, to be left alone. Children might be cute and cuddly up to a certain point, but parents then sure had a Calvary experience telling us what to do and telling us what not to do – at any given time. We either obeyed, or we delayed. And when we did obey, heaven knows, it was neither immediate, nor prompt.

It was always hard to break from whatever it was we enjoyed doing at the moment. I swear it was not chores. No one enjoyed fetching water. No one considered chopping firewood as enjoyable as the computer games of the internet pioneers of our times. It was hard to part with our imaginary games where everyone wanted to be Vic Morrow and Ric Jason, or Batman and Robin, or for the older ones, the famed Flash Gordon … or, let’s fast forward a few more years, make it Superman!

When Mom or Dad called, our response was never immediate. It was always something like, “later,” or “yes, I will,” but with a heavy heart and pounding feet. It was hard to make a clean break of something we loved to do.

Today, third Sunday of Ordinary Time, I would like to think that discipleship is not so much doing what the Lord tells us, first and foremost. Discipleship as the readings would have us understand, is first of all, hearing, listening, and then making a clean break of everything and everyone … and then some!

Let me tell you what is so hard now to break away from …

There’s pride, for one … We simply love to stick it out and hold on to our own ideas. There’s racism and ethnocentrism for another … We love to take sides and root for our own preferred groups or personages. Now it’s yellow; now it’s green … Now it’s Peter; now it’s Paul. We are often not united in just about anything. Like in the times of the Corinthians, there are rivalries among [us] … There are those who belonged to Paul, and those who belonged to Apollos.

Our politics of the dysfunctional kind, as ever, leads us to be so divided into camps, and in many cases, such divisions into groups could only best be explained by what we get in return for misplaced loyalties – perks or positions; rewards whether material or psychic, but hardly ever on the basis of principles and moral convictions.

The lesson of today’s readings seems to be limpid clear … The Lord does not call us to belong to camps, political or otherwise. He calls us to life … to salvation … And He called individuals to spearhead the movement. They were called disciples. They were told to “come and follow.”

And following did not mean hemming and hawing. Being disciples meant, right from the start, making a double-breasted clean break: from family and livelihood; from the cradle of love, and from the crest of financial independence … from the surety of being cared for, as from the surety of being materially well taken care of.

Now, this is exactly like being taken away from war games that we knew back then … being told to come back to the world of reality, and turn away from the imaginary world of military victories, between Japs and Allies, with the likes of Vic Morrow and Ric Jason as our perfect battle-tested strategists and warriors.

After being a priest for more than 30 years now, I must confess … It is hard to be a disciple. It is easy to be called or believe oneself called. But it is quite another to make a clean break of everything and everyone, and leave all, for the sake of the kingdom.

But priests like us are not alone in this. You, too, my lay readers are not off the hook. You, too, are called. You, too, are sent. And for you to go and become disciples yourselves, you need, too, to make a clean break, and face up to the challenges that lie ahead.

Take it from Paul … He did more than just baptize. “Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.”

Did you get that? He spoke of the cross … not computer games and virtual challenges. They are real, not virtual. Make a clean break, and face the challenge! This is what discipleship is.

Sacred Heart Novitiate
Lawaan, Talisay City
January 23, 2014