HERO OR HEEL?
[BREAKING THE BREAD OF GOD’S WORD]
32nd Sunday OT_B
November 8, 2015
HERO OR HEEL?
How little things have changed from then and now. The widow of Zarephath was gathering sticks, much like the poor now gather what has come to be known almost derisively now in the Philippines as “kalakal.”
I grew up at a place and time when “kalakal” did not refer to garbage. It simply meant farm produce that you brought twice a week to market to be sold wholesale to merchants who had the capital and the means of transport to sell them to the big Metro Manila market.
We were not anywhere near the abject poverty of the widow, who having been married lost the support of her father, and who, having been widowed, lost the entire support from a husband.
She was alone – and poor by any standard. So, too, was the widow mentioned in the gospel, who gave her all, despite her want, in spite of her need.
The first widow was the object of the Lord’s largesse and compassion. The second widow was the subject and agent or doer, if you will, of what God has been to the former, and to all who did not belong to the likes of dishonest scribes who took advantage of widows.
Both gave from their want. Both gave their all despite their own need.
In our times in this forlorn country that is anything but Christian now in culture, the equivalent of widows and orphans – the anawim of Yahweh – still give their all, most of them unwittingly, unwillingly, I submit.
Most of the victims of the now notorious “laglag-bala” scam are senior citizens, widows and widowers, old men and women, overseas foreign workers, hapless and clueless and definitely powerless simple people whose only overriding dream is to give a brighter future to their families in the boonies.
The Lord, in today’s gospel, did not mince words when he referred to the “scribes who liked to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.”
But he did not condemn them primarily for working for honor and prestige and the adulation of the masses. He condemned them for the same exact reason that Filipino civil society now condemns those who take advantage of the poor OFWs, old people, and powerless individuals who don’t have any other option than to give sizeable bribes to get out of that man-made quandary brought about by a stupid law, on the one hand, and unscrupulous people, on the other.
Today’s liturgy offers two glaring lessons for us who feel violated by all this hullabaloo at the world’s worst airport.
The first is a classic truth in the Old Testament … God is definitely on the side of the widow, the poor, the orphan and the powerless. God has a special place in his heart for them.
But that divine solicitude does not come falling down like rain from heaven. It has to be incarnated in and through the lives of concrete people who heed the teachings of the Lord.
That divine solicitude comes shining through the outrage of the Filipino netizens and civil society, who allow their faith to bear on this issue of human sinfulness.
But today, at least in this Mass, I would like to offer a question for each one of us, including myself …
Am I an incarnation of this love, mercy and compassion of God? Do I give my all and do I give, not from my surplus, but from my need?
Those two widows were heroes, no less.
What about you? Are you hero or heel?