FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
1 Kings 19:9A, 11-13A | Psalm 85: 9, 10, 11-12, 13-14 | Romans 9: 1-5 | Matthew 14:22-33
On this Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time let us together be quiet and hear the heartbeat of God within us; accompany others in discovering truth and goodness; and completely trust God no matter what goes on around us.
In June, gradual reopening of barbershops and salons were approved in areas under general community quarantine. Barbers were willing to go to great lengths to get positive reviews and build again a customer base by adding value to their haircut service. Alfredo was having his hair cut. Barber Ka Gusting, excessively conversational like many others in his profession, told Alfredo, "Your haircut goes with a complimentary specialty drink. Do you want coffee, tea, juice, soda or bottled water?" Alfredo replied, "I'll have coffee". Ka Gusting asked, "Do you want your coffee black, latte, Cappuccino, Americano, Espresso..." Alfredo interrupted, "Dark espresso". The barber continued, "Served hot or iced?" Quite annoyed, Alfredo answered, "Hot". Then the barber asked another question, "How he would like your hair cut?" Stressed out, he replied, “In silence.”
In the first reading from First Book of Kings we see Elijah clashed mightily with the Israelite king Ahab and his sinister wife Jezebel over the worship of the foreign god Baal of Peor. Elijah is running away for his life in alarm. He ran to Horeb, the mountain of God, where, many generations earlier, God had favored Moses with a powerful apparition. As Elijah frantically sought God, he found him not in the howling of the mighty wind, not in the violent shaking of the ground and not in heat from the flames. Rather, he found God in the way he least expected: in the gentle whispering breeze. We are in a culture that is addicted to noise. Society conditions us to be comfortable with noise and crowds. It is difficult to find a quiet place with televisions, radios, horns and the Internet’s endless talking, and now smart phones and tablets. If there's anything good that this pandemic has given us is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stop, to rest, to take a people fast, to cease our manic production and consumption, to see and reflect upon ourselves, our faith, and our country in an honest light. It is in a word: Silence. Silence is the environmental condition most conducive to contemplation, to listening to God and to meditation. God often tries to speak to us in our daily lives through a sound of sheer silence, but we must know how to listen. Do you ever spend time in silence to hear God? Ssssh...be quiet and hear the heartbeat of God within us. The voice of God came to Elijah in a tiny little whisper. And so it is with us.
Perry the Platypus is one of my daughter's favorite kid show. You should definitely watch it. But wait...Do you know what a Platypus is? The Platypus, found only in Australia, is one of the rarest mammal species that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young. Before it was widely known, many people thought the platypus was a made-up animal. When British explorers first went to Australia they found a mammal which laid eggs; spent some time in water, some on land; had a broad, flat tail, webbed feet, and a bill similar to a duck. Upon their return to England, they told the populace of this, and all felt it was a hoax. They returned to Australia and took a preserved platypus body back to England, but the people still judged it a fake, made of several animals sewn together. In spite of the evidence, they disbelieved because they didn't want to believe. Yes, you guessed it right! A strain of fact-resistant, evidence-ignoring human species is something that already exists long in England before the 2016 Philippine presidential election!
In his Letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul pours out his heart because the Jews, his own people, had refused to see Christ as the Messiah who was promised to them by God through their patriarchs and prophets. His sadness was so great that he lamented, “I will willingly be condemned if I could help my brothers of Israel” (9:3). He is willing to be condemned to hell, if it would make the people of his heritage see God’s presence in the Lord Jesus. We live in a culture that believes there are no moral absolutes and that tolerance is the chief virtue. This is clearly observed when someone sees another doing something clearly against the law, but he rationalizes, “Well, it wouldn’t be right for me to violate mass gathering or quarantine rules, but maybe mañanitas are okay” or “Stealing other people's money is wrong, but I don't want to comment about the widespread corruption in PhilHealth" or "Serious professional incompetence and neglect of duty are unacceptable but let him stay because the president have confidence in him". If something is against law, it's wrong for anyone. Period! If someone is violating the law, then we have the responsibility to correct him or her in the proper way. Correction assumes that there is such a thing as fundamentally right and wrong, defined in the law, regardless of political color. Alfredo Lim*, former Manila mayor and senator of the republic, put it best for all of us: “The law applies to all, otherwise none at all.” Are we patient and self-sacrificing with those who need to hear the truth? Paul demonstrates his love for souls. He wouldn't let others continue walking toward disaster. Let's be like Paul. Let's help others correct their mistakes and find their way back to God.
Two years ago, fire broke out at a residential area in Sampaloc, Manila. A young boy was forced to flee to the roof. Jimmy, the father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jimboy, jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All Jimboy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, Jimboy was afraid to leave the roof. Jimmy kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But Jimboy protested, "Tatay, I can't see you." The father replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters." The boy jumped, because he trusted his father.
In our Gospel, Peter became distracted by the fury of the storm around him and, in his panic, lost faith in his ability to reach Jesus and began to sink. Even when Peter was struggling, Jesus was there with his outstretched arm to save him. Storms are part of our human existence; we each experience these storms in different ways. As we step out in faith and courage in handling the storms of our life, let us hold firmly to Jesus, who promises to walk with us and who will not abandon us. All that is required is that we then step out in faith and trust that the rest is in Jesus’ hands. Like Jimboy who trusted his tatay Jimmy completely, our complete confidence in Jesus enables us to face life or meet death, not because we can see, but with the certainty that we are seen; not that we know all the answers, but that we are known. <enrique.ofs>
*Eternal rest, grant unto Alfredo+ O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum