26th Sunday Year A
September 28, 2014
A PAST WORTH LOOKING INTO; A FUTURE WORTH AIMING FOR
They say every saint had a past and every sinner has a future. Agree! St. Lorenzo Ruiz, for his glorious martyrdom in Japan, originally did not go there to seek for that cruel death. He had other motives. He had other plans. Not that were bad of themselves, but they definitely were not what eventually he suffered and died for.
We all were children once upon a time. We all felt picked on by our parents, who always seemed to have a ready command or a quick errand for us children to do then. Who among us did not have a ready answer for either of them, or both? “Why me?” “Not again!” “I am busy!” “I got tons of homework to prepare for school!” What child did not answer thus, at least on a few occasions: “Yes, Dad. Count on me. I will do it later,” and then went his/her merry way playing games with neighborhood kids until he or she felt hungry? What child here with us never ever had at least the urge to say: “No, I am not doing that!”
Yes, we all experienced that one way or another. But let me qualify that a bit. We also experienced having a change of heart, a change of mind, a change of ways. In our worst moments, we answered “yes” to the command, but never really complied … or complied begrudgingly … or ranted in a way faintly similar to the Jews who complained: “The Lord’s way is not fair!”
Yes, after all these years as a priest, after so many years as an educator, I have complained countless times to the Lord: “Why do evil men’s ways prosper while all I do always in disappointment end?”
This is what I see on hindsight. But hindsight – that capacity to look at the past – also leads to both insight and foresight! What insight do I have today, now that I find common cause (and common complaint!) with that anonymous guy that Ezekiel refers to in the first reading? After the plaint came the realization born of the grace of insight: “If one turns from the wickedness he has committed and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life.”
This is what I now see as precious insight … the exact same insight that came to St. Paul, who, on hindsight, was really a cruel persecutor in the past, but who found it in his heart to change his mind and change his ways! This same Paul the former persecutor, now talks convincingly of things that didn’t even cross his mind: love, compassion, mercy, joy, humility, and self-depreciation for God’s sake.
I come from a big family. God knows how much help my parents needed when we were all growing up. Each one of us felt picked on everyday as there were countless errands to do, piles of clothes to wash, and mounds of plates and trash to clean after. For not just a few times, I behaved like the elder son, who said, “No,” but eventually did as told. For countless times, I behaved like the younger one, who answered “yes,” but never got around to doing what was asked of him.
The older one had hindsight and insight. He thought better and thought well. And the thinking, reflecting process led him to foresight – what we postmoderns now prefer to call as being “proactive.” He changed his mind. And he changed his ways.
That, my dear friend, is what metanoia or conversion is all about. It starts with insight – a change of mind born of a reflection of things past. That change of mind leads to change of heart. And the rest, as they say, is history!
I am no saint. Not yet. Not in my wildest dreams. But I am called to be one somehow. But I need to do first things first: Look at the past. Get into the business of serious hindsight. Find insight. Ever saint had a past and every sinner has a future.
But in the meantime, the present calls for insight, and today’s readings precisely give us precious tips on this regard. For those who have both insight and foresight, it is well worth remembering this: “he shall surely live; he shall not die.!