Archive for category Humility
There is a story told about Paul Cezanne who ranks among the world’s greatest artists. He painted for thirty five years before receiving any recognition. When an art dealer finally discovered him and exhibited his paintings in Paris, Cezanne was overwhelmed. Entering the exhibition with his son, he could not believe what he saw. “Look!” he said to his son, “I can’t believe it! They’ve even framed my paintings!”
The theme of today’s gospel is GREATNESS IN HUMILITY. Humility is such a rare and weird virtue. Rare, because as John Selden, a British jurist and statesman, said: “Humility is a virtue all preach, none practise, and yet everybody is content to hear. The master thinks it good doctrine for his servant, the laity for the clergy, and the clergy for the laity.” Weird because as Louis Evely described it, “the moment we think we have it, we lost it.”
Humility is one of the main pillars of the Christian life. “If you ask me”, St. Augustine says, “what is the essential thing in the religion and discipline of Jesus Christ, I shall reply: first humility, second humility and third humility” (“Letter 118”). In a similar story, when St. Bernard was asked what the four cardinal virtues were, he replied: “Humility, humility, humility and humility.”
What is humility? What does it entail? Based on today’s gospel’s account, greatness in humility entails three things:
First, put yourself last. Who is the greatest in God’s kingdom? The one who is humble and lowly of heart— who instead of asserting their rights willingly empty themselves of pride and self-seeking glory by taking the lowly position of a servant or child. “If you ask me”, St. Augustine says, “what is the essential thing in the religion and discipline of Jesus Christ, I shall reply: first humility, second humility and third humility” (“Letter 118”).
Unlike the proud and the arrogant, a disciple should not “…think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment…” (Rom. 12:3). He must be prepared to take the last, least and lowest place. He must be ready and willing to become a servant of servants of all. It teaches us to prefer others over ourselves (Rom. 12:10). It is knowing our true position before God. It is not self-abasement or demeaning one’s self. “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Humility is necessary to be a disciple of Jesus (Matt. 18:3-4).
Second, be the servant of all. Greatness consists in humble service. “If any man would be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mk 9:35). Jesus own teaching and example is a lesson for all of us. The humility of Jesus is described in Philippians 2:5-8, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (NIV). Christ whole life expresses his mission: “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (cf. CCC 608). As Christian, we are bound to do same – to be a servant of servants of all.
Third, to receive the seemingly insignificant human being with great love. God takes special care of the weak and will punish those who harm them and reward those who take care of them. To receive, love and serve a little child is to receive, love and serve Christ himself and the One who sent him. “Whosoever shall receive one of such little children in my name receives me, and whosoever receives me, receives not me, but him that sent me” (Mk 26-37).
Receiving a little child in Jesus’ name includes the unselfish care and support given for the poor and the needy who cannot repay us of our hospitality and generosity. Receiving, serving and loving the poor and the needy is serving and loving Jesus himself, hence, deserving of heavenly reward. Blessed are you when you “fed the hungry Christ, gave drink to the thirsty Christ, received the homeless Christ, clothed the naked Christ and visited the sick and the imprisoned Christ” (Mother Teresa of Calcutta) because you will inherit the kingdom prepared for you by my Father from the foundation of the world.
Humility is not only rare and weird, as I said earlier, but it is also difficult to conquer. As St. Francis de Sales said: “Pride – human pride dies 15 minutes after your own death.” History has shown us that person in power and authority is always tempted by pride, arrogance, honor, fame, wealth and corruption. Conscious of all these, St. Gregory the Great, who was pope from 590 to 640, adopted a title which has been applied to all Peter’s successors, a relevant reminded of Jesus’ teaching. The title is: “servos servorom” which means “the servant of servants of God” or “the least of all servants.”
Jesus in washing his disciples’ feet shows us the way we should walk, if we are to be like him, if we desire to follow him, not only to the cross at Good Friday, but to the glory of Easter Sunday. Wish to be the greatest of all? Put yourself last, be the servant of all, and receive the least, last and the lowest of society!
You call me Master and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also must wash one another’s feet. I have just given you an example that as I have done, you also may do.”
A few nights ago, The History Channel showed a documentary in which scientists attempted to create what may be the most realistic 3-D image of the face of Christ.
They spent many months on the project, using sophisticated computer technology to craft the image from the Shroud of Turin.
The result is the face of a young man with long hair, and a beard, and scars, and blood stains around his brow. The computer estimates that he’d be about 5’8″. He looks heavier, more muscular than most may think. But he otherwise looks very much the way any of us might imagine Jesus looked at the time of his death.
What Jesus really looked like has fascinated us for centuries – and it’s informed how he’s been portrayed in art. And it’s not just what he looked like, but what he did. We see him depicted so often in art as a crucified victim, or a good shepherd, or a teacher preaching to his followers.
But tonight, on one of the holiest nights of the year, we are given a very different picture of Jesus. And it may be more surprising than anything you’d see on the History Channel.
We see him on his knees, wiping away dirt, washing feet.
This is truly what it means to be Christ. He said so himself.
“I have given you a model to follow,” he tells his apostles. “So that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
For all those who ask the perennial question, “What would Jesus do?,” here is your answer.
And it comes at a surprising moment: on this night when we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist, and the institution of the priesthood. But the church does not offer us a gospel reading about Christ giving us himself in the form of bread and wine. Instead, it gives us this gospel reading.
But the message, I think, is the same. Tonight, God gets down on his knees for us. Tonight, He lowers himself. Tonight, He becomes a servant to the world — as humble as a slave, as meager and plain as a crumb of bread.
From this, we learn what it means to be like Christ.
The overwhelming impression is surprising, and challenging. It is God becoming less…so that we can become more.
One of his last acts on earth, the last communal moment with his friends, is spent taking care of them, purifying them, removing the dust of the day. Perhaps he is anticipating the roads they will travel in the hours ahead. Maybe he is somehow getting them ready for the long journey ahead — missions they will undertake after he has gone, traveling by foot to bring the gospel to the world.
I also think it is also a beautiful representation of the priesthood, and the sacrament of reconciliation. We all walk the earth carrying the debris of our lives – our failings, our sins, our weaknesses. They cling to us. But here, they are washed away. We are made new; we can begin again.
And this, too, is what it means to be like Christ.
“As I have done for you, you should also do.”
The Imitation of Christ begins with this moment. It is in the selfless service, doing what others won’t do, or can’t.
It is people like Fr. Rick Frechette, in Haiti, performing surgery on the poorest people of the Western hemisphere’s poorest country, and caring for those who cannot care for themselves, and quietly going to mass graves to pray for the dead when no one else will.
It’s aid workers in Sri Lanka and Sisters of Charity in the Bronx and missionaries in Nepal.
And it is priests like those here tonight, and thousands around the world, who anoint our sick and offer absolution for our sins, and celebrate mass with one simple goal in mind – to save souls.
At a moment when the priesthood is under attack, we can’t forget those who are quietly, prayerfully, persistently doing God’s work in our world – the great majority of good priests whose work often goes unnoticed. You won’t see headlines about them in the New York Times.
Years ago, when the AIDS crisis first broke, protestors showed up regularly at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to throw condoms and protest the church’s teachings about sex. But every week, Cardinal O’Connor left his residence and went to St. Claire’s Hospital in midtown to visit AIDS patients — to bathe them and empty their bedpans. No one ever knew about it. It wasn’t reported until after he died. But that kind of work goes on today, in every corner of the world. I think of Bishop Daily, who rises early almost every Saturday, in every kind of weather, and puts on his coat and goes to the abortion clinic down on Austin Street, and stands outside, and simply prays the rosary. A humble, simple act that can change hearts and, maybe, save lives.
That is what it means to be like Christ.
That is what it means to wash feet.
“As I have done for you, you should also do.”
That is Christ’s message to his followers – and to us.
And so, this night, confronted with this challenging gospel reading, it’s worth asking ourselves: what have we done? How many feet have we washed?
How have I tried to imitate Christ?
Science and technology can only tell us so much. The fact remains: if you want to really know what Jesus looked like, you won’t find it on the History Channel. You won’t even find it on the Shroud of Turin.
Look, instead, to tonight’s gospel.
Because here – on his knees before others, his head lowered in humility and in love, doing the work of a slave – here is where you see the true image of Christ.
Pope Paul VI. Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our fellow-men throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger. Give them through our hands, this day their daily bread, and by our understanding love, give peace and joy.
Ignatius of Loyola. O Dearly beloved Word of God, teach me to be generous, to serve Thee as Thou dost deserve, to give without counting the cost, to fight without fretting at my wounds, to labor without seeking rest, to spend myself without looking for any reward other than that of knowing that I do Thy holy will. Amen.
Today’s Gospel parable has deep meaning and no word wasted. It has a message that challenges and hits the bull’s eye. Exalt yourself and you will be humbled. Humble yourself and you will be exalted.
The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector is terribly contemporary, for it raises the shadow of two constant temptations.
The first temptation is thinking that we alone save our souls. Jesus’ parable is addressed to all who attribute to themselves as pleasing to God, all who lift themselves to heaven by their own bootstraps. It’s true we cannot be saved unless we want to, but even that wanting, that very desire, is God’s grace to us. It is Jesus who saves.
Now don’t misunderstand the parable. God will not mind if your prayer of thanksgiving sounds in part like the Pharisee’s: “O God, I thank you for all I am. I have such a high IQ. In looks I score 10. I never miss Mass on Sundays (despite your boring preachers), haven’t broken any commandment this year. I work for the victims of wars, and earthquakes, of typhoons and floods. I helped the poor and the lonely, the sick, the “sungit” and “pangit.” I even support the parish priest with all kinds of gifts.”
Not a bad prayer, but useless unless you add, day in and day out, “O God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am.” In your prayer of thanksgiving thank God for His mercy, from the birth of His Son in a stable, through his death on a cross, to his birth in your heart. Without that mercy, without God’s constant forgiveness, all your work would be worthless.
The second temptation is less subtle, a danger to everyday living — comparing oneself with others. Throughout history men and women have fallen prey in some measure to the Pharisee’s fault: “I am not like the rest of mankind.” Early Christians looked down on the Jews “rejected by God,” Crusaders on infidels they would massacre. Protestants and Catholics despised one another. The upper educated class looks down on the bakya crowd. And so on across the spectrum of human living.
Perhaps we can raise our prayer of thanksgiving to a high Christian level: “O God, I thank you that I am like the rest of humankind. I thank you that like everyone else, I too have been shaped in your image, with a mind to know and a heart to love. I thank you that, like everyone else, I too was embraced by the crucified arms of your Son. I too have him for a brother. I thank you that you judge me, like everyone else, not by my brains or looks, my clothes, the figures of my bank account, the size of my house and the model of my car, but by the love that is your gift to me, by the way I share the passion of your Christ. I thank you that, for all our thousand differences, I am remarkably like the people all around me.”
Luke 18:12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess
“This parable is not about hypocrisy; it’s about pride. By objective human standards, in terms of the number and frequency of rules kept, the Pharisee really was the more righteous of the two individuals! Yet according to the Savior: ‘I tell you, this man [the publican] went down to his house justified rather than the other [the Pharisee]: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.’ (V. 14.)
“I fear that, like the Pharisee in the parable, some of us who are relatively good at keeping the rules also trust in ourselves that we are righteous. Such are inordinately proud of their own goodness; they exalt themselves. But whenever we are proud of how good we are instead of being humbled by how imperfect we are (cf. “2 Ne. 4:17″2 Ne. 4:18″2 Ne. 4:192 Ne. 4:17-19), our hearts are not broken, nor are our spirits contrite.
Robert E. Wells
“If we are to increase in favor with God, we must resolve to overcome as much as possible the sin of pride. President Benson maintained that pride is the universal sin (Ensign, May 1989, p. 6). That means that every one of us, to one degree or another, suffers from the problem and must do all in our power to overcome its influence. As human beings, we have a remarkable capacity to fall under the influence of pride—even when we think we are in the safest of religious settings.
“I remember reading about the Sunday School teacher who taught her class that great scriptural lesson on the proud Pharisee who thanked the Lord that he was not a sinner like the publican, a penitent sinner who prayed for forgiveness. Jesus said the publican was more justified than the Pharisee (see Luke 18:9–14). The Sunday School teacher then suggested to her class that they should all thank God that they were not like that Pharisee! (See Robert J. McCracken, What Is Sin? What Is Virtue? New York: Harper and Row, 1966, p. 14.)
“Another story relates that a Carthusian monk, explaining to an inquirer about the distinctive features of his monastic order, said: ‘When it comes to good works, we don’t match the Benedictines; as to preaching, we are not in a class with the Dominicans; the Jesuits are away ahead of us in learning; but in the matter of humility, we’re tops’ (ibid., p. 14).” (“Resolutions,” Ensign, Dec. 1994, 65)
Joe J. Christensen
Luke 18:13 the publican…smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner
“How do you pray? Like publicans or arrogant officials? The Pharisee recounted to the Lord his many virtues. He was not an extortioner, unjust, an adulterer like the publican or other men. He fasted twice a week and tithed possessions. But the publican standing humbly in the background ‘would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ (Luke 18:13Luke 18:13.)
“In your secret prayers do you beat your breast and present yourself with your soul bared, or do you dress yourself in fancy coverings and pressure God to see your virtues? Do you emphasize your goodness and cover your sins with a blanket of pretense? Or do you plead for mercy at the hands of Kind Providence?
“Do you get answers to your prayers? If not, perhaps you did not pay the price. Do you offer a few trite words and worn-out phrases, or do you talk intimately to the Lord? Do you pray occasionally when you should be praying regularly, often, constantly? Do you offer pennies to pay heavy debts when, you should give dollars to erase that obligation?
“When you pray, do you just speak, or do you also listen? your Savior said, ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.’ (Rev. 3:20Rev. 3:20.)
“The promise is made to everyone. There is no discrimination, no favored few. But the Lord has not promised to crash the door. He stands and knocks. If we do not listen, He will not sup with us nor give answer to our prayers. Do you know how to listen, grasp, interpret, understand? The Lord stands knocking. He never retreats. But He will never force himself upon us.” (October 11, 1961, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1961, p. 6.)
Spencer W. Kimball
TWO KINDS OF PRAYER: Prayer states one’s relationship with God. The way we pray reveals that relationship. The Pharisee prays as a character who “prays to himself” or “with reference to himself.” What he spells out is quite true: his observance of the Law goes beyond the legal requirements. But his prayer has been transformed into boasting. He has become full of himself that he seems not to need God anymore. Moreover, he assumes the role of judge and despises others. He reminds God of the deficiency of the tax collector, in case God has not noticed.
In contrast to the prayer of the puffed-up Pharisee, that of the tax collector is of utter simplicity and truth. Indeed he is a sinner. Indeed he needs God’s gift of righteousness because he has none of his own. In praying to God to have mercy on him, he asks God to give him what God “owes” him: mercy and forgiveness.
At the end of the story, the tax collector is the one justified by God, that is, God has placed him in right relationship with God. The Pharisee needed nothing and asked for nothing; he received nothing. The tax collector, by contrast, recognized he needed God’s gift of righteousness, and so he received it.
Source: 365 Days with the Lord
Human experiences teach us:
- That the people who hurt us often and hurt us the most are people who are so close to us. That is why there is a song entitled, “Why do we always hurt the one we love?”
- That the people we find the hardest to forgive are also people who are so close to us. People as such we call them traitors and ungrateful. It has been said that one’s best friends is one’s worst enemies.
- That the people who are deeply hurt or aggrieved have the tendency to self-pity, anger, hatred, resentment and revenge. Given all these, it is hard to forgive, much harder, to forgive constantly. Indeed Alexander Pope is correct when he said, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”
If your heart is filled with anger, hatred and revenge and you find it hard to forgive those who hurt or offended you, then, the message of today’s Gospel is for you: love the repentant sinner by forgiving him while hate the sin; hope for repentance of sinner and celebrate the redemption of even one sinner.
Going back to the parable we just heard, the younger son’s request was impudent and disrespectful. Typically, sons received their inheritance on the death of their father. Sometimes a father might decide to distribute part or all of the inheritance early so that he might retire, but the initiative is the father’s—not the son’s. In the event that a son received his inheritance prior to the father’s death, the son was expected to stay at home to provide for his parents in their old age. That was part of what it meant to “honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exod 20:12).
This younger son was guilty of: (1) assuming the initiative that belonged to his father (2) treating his father as if he were dead (3) ignoring his obligation to his parents in their old age and (4) breaking the family relationship by leaving. Such conduct was shameful in that culture. A father would feel ashamed to have raised such a son. Neighbors would raise their eyebrows and thank God not to have such sons themselves.
Despite of what had happened the father has forgiven his repentant impudent and disrespectful son who deeply offended and hurt him. The father in the parable represents God the Father who is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Jl 2:12-13) while the prodigal son represents the worst sinner who returns to the Father with contrite and humble spirit. Just as God the Father has forgiven us in Christ when were sinners and when we were still His enemies let us also forgive those who has hurt and offended us.
Why do we need to forgive?
- “The only way to peace is forgiveness. To accept and give forgiveness makes possible a new quality of rapport between men, interrupts the spiral of hatred and revenge and breaks the chains of evil which bind the heart of rivals” (Pope John Paul II, Homily at Mass for First Sunday of Lent, “Day of Pardon”, March 12, 2000 and Angelus Message, March 12, 2000).
- “Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the high cost of hatred, and the waste of energy” (E. C. McKenzie).
- Forgiveness of one another is a condition for authentic worship of the Father. “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:23-24; cf. 6:14-15; Mk 11:25; CCC 2841; cf. CFC 2187).
- Man must forgive in order to be forgiven by God. The parable is a comment upon the fifth petition of the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us” (Mt 6:12). Those, and those only, may expect to be forgiven of God, who forgive their brethren “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will you Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt 6:14, 15). As James had it, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13).
“Because you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as God has forgiven you in Christ” (Col 3:12f). Forgive and “so be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect ” (Mt 5: 44-48).
He ran to his son
When the son returns home, the father runs to meet him. Older men in the Middle East do not run except in emergency; running causes dishonor. But the father does this, not so much to welcome the son as to protect him from hostile villagers who resent his break from family and community and his loss of inheritance to non-Israelites. By meeting the errant son at the edge of the village, and by embracing and kissing him, he puts the son under his protection, safe from the immediate danger of a hostile community. Moreover, the robe, the ring, and the sandals are signs that the son is taken back as a member of the household rather than as a servant.
The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) is perhaps better named the parable of the lost son, since it is designed to go with the parables of the lost sheep (verses 3-7) and lost coin (verses 8-10). Some have even called it the parable of the prodigal father, because of the father’s extravagance. Even today, after centuries of teaching about God’s grace, the father’s willingness to forgive his runaway son is shockingly generous.
What this parable teaches us about God
The context helps us understand the lessons of the parable. Verses 1-2 tell us that sinners and tax collectors were being taught by Jesus. Pharisees then criticized Jesus — not for teaching them, but for eating with them, which was a sign of social acceptance. The Pharisees tried hard to be righteous, and they were disturbed that Jesus accepted people who hadn’t been trying hard. Perhaps they were worried that Jesus was making it too easy on people, and his acceptance might encourage others to be lazy.
Jesus then gave the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, both illustrating the point that God rejoices about each sinner who repents. “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (verse 7). There’s no such thing as a person who has no need for repentance, but the Pharisees weren’t yet aware of that. There would be rejoicing for them, too, if they would accept it.
The parable of the lost son continues the theme of rejoicing and adds to it. The first half of the parable illustrates rejoicing over a sinner who returned; the second half more directly addresses the situation Jesus faced: criticism about his willingness to be with sinners. Jesus, by telling the parable the way he did, chides those who do not rejoice about the sinners’ interest in being taught (figuratively, returning to God).
In the first two parables, the lost were found by searching. But the younger son was found by waiting. The spiritually lost were already coming to Jesus; he didn’t need to seek them out. They had been spiritually dead and were now showing interest — they wanted to be taught by Jesus. Jesus received them and ate with them. His reception would have encouraged them to keep the laws they already knew and to continue to listen to him for more instruction in God’s way.
But the parable is not just about Jesus in the first century; it is a timeless message about God the Father. He rejoices over (cf. the celebration) and honors (cf. the robe, ring and sandals) every sinner who repents. He doesn’t wait for a full and formal apology; he perceives the attitude and comes toward us. This theme of joyful acceptance, similar to that of the first two parables of this chapter, dominates the first part of this parable. This is the lesson illustrated by the father: He is always ready to welcome a returning child.
The parable shows that sinners can confess and return to God. Since God is gracious, sinners can return to him with confidence that he will warmly welcome them. But in the parable, financial destitution is more prominent than moral fault. Unlike the first two parables, the word repent is not used; only superficial reasons are given for the son’s return. As Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, encouraging sinners to return was not the main issue; the main issue was what to do about sinners who were already willing to return.
Most importantly, the parable shows that God’s people should rejoice at a) the willingness of sinners to turn to God and b) the willingness of God to receive them. This is the lesson of the second half of the parable, illustrated by the father’s correction of his older son. This theme most directly addresses the setting of the parable, the Pharisees’ criticism of Jesus’ reception of sinners. The parables of the lost sheep and lost coin and the first half of the parable of the lost son are preparatory to this main point.
These themes are timeless. God rejoices over each person who repents, and so should we. We need not kill a calf for repentant persons (Jesus didn’t; the parable illustrates the attitude of rejoicing, not the specific actions we should take). We need to accept repentant sinners to social fellowship (cf. eating with them, verse 2) and religious instruction (cf. allowing them to listen, verse 1). This particular parable does not say we should seek outcasts (that is shown better by the parables of lost sheep and lost coin), but that we should be happy when they come to us to be taught.
In effect, Jesus’ story shows that it is ungodly to refuse to rejoice about repentance. The Pharisees, by insisting on a too-strict standard of righteousness, were being unrighteous. They, too, needed to repent.
The parable of the prodigal son is perhaps one of Jesus most famous parables and probably the best loved parable of all times. The story has found its way in the arts through paintings, stage plays and sculptures. The parable of the prodigal son has also found its way in literature and even popular music.
The parable of the prodigal son is found in the Gospel of Luke chapter 15 verses 11 to 32. The story opens with Jesus telling the story of a man who has two sons. The opening statement of verse 11 will indicate to us that the story is about “Two sons” not just about one son. The error most Christians, readers and even some preachers commit when reading the parable of the prodigal son is focusing on the “prodigal son” only hence the story is often called “the parable of the prodigal son” when in reality the story is not about the parable of the prodigal son, but it is a parable of two sons.
Honesty and humility
By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Last updated 00:07am (Mla time) 09/16/2007
LAST WEEK, AN ELDERLY LADY FROM Ilocos told me: “Father, in America I experienced shock culture.”
“Lola, maybe, you mean culture shock,” I corrected.
“No Father, in America siak agluto, siak aglaba, siak aglinis amin! Siak culture!” (Me cook, me wash, me clean, me everything!)
* * *
In today’s Gospel (Lk. 15, 1-32), Jesus tells us that the prodigal son came to his senses when he realized how miserable his lot had been in a foreign land, doing everything by himself, living in dire need and hunger, a far cry from the life of the well-fed hired workers in his father’s house. Deprivations and humiliations can lead us to the road of conversion. On the other hand, affluence and prosperity can blind and mislead us from our true vision and mission.
* * *
The story of the prodigal son reminds us that nobody stays on top forever. Money can be lost, position can be taken away, friends can disappear, power and glory can fade away. But what remained in the prodigal son was the memory of his home and his loving father. Humility was the key that opened the door that led him out of his brokenness and drudgery. Unless and until one is humble or is humbled, there can be no real conversion, no real freedom, and no real moving on.
* * *
I look at many of our people in high places today, who continue cheating, robbing and lying; and I often wonder if they realize their folly in their search for worldly riches and glory. I often find myself amused and amazed at how they can blurt out their lies and denials “without batting an eyelash” and—wonder of wonders!—somehow live with them. Or so it seems. But I surmise theirs must be a miserable life deep inside because of that constant and present fear of being uncovered, caught and punished for their crimes.
* * *
What would be necessary to make a call a wake-up call? Sickness, pain, loss of a loved one, deprivation—all these are calling and pointing us to home. But what can we say of people who have gone through all these and more, yet go on sinning anyway?
How long can one go on ignoring God’s call? There is no escaping it, for someday soon, we all will have our final call.
* * *
A person can have all the wake-up calls in life, but if he/she does not pick up the phone and answer, then he/she is a subscriber that cannot be reached. Let us not turn off our mobile phones and let us not keep God’s call “waiting.” It is God who is calling. Answer Him. It is God who is knocking. Let Him in.
* * *
There are two keys we need to set us free from our prisons. The first is honesty. As long as we go on denying and rationalizing, we can never really “see.” Let us pray to the Holy Spirit to set us free from our biases and blind spots. The second is humility. As long as we are arrogant and proud, we can never really accept who we really are and the pathetic situation we got ourselves in. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to set us free from our defiance and false securities.
* * *
The prodigal son came to his senses because in all honesty and humility, he realized his present situation. In other words, he faced the light and came “eyeball to eyeball” with his God. Don’t avoid God’s eyes. Don’t evade God’s all-knowing and all-loving look into your eyes.
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Conversion happens when we accept God’s unconditional love and allow God to embrace us, with all out filth, stench, warts and all. Often, conversion does not happen because we keep thinking of some great tomorrow or some big someday when we will be more “good,” or because we keep regretting some great yesterday when we were good “then.” Forget about your great tomorrows or your glorious yesterdays. There’s only now. There’s only love, unconditional.
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They say there are three signs that tell one is growing old. The first sign is forgetfulness. The second sign is … what was it again? Anyway, our greatest confidence is that our God is not only a forgiving but also a forgetting God when it comes to our sins and iniquities.
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I erroneously wrote in my last column that Oct. 15 is the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, which was actually observed last Sept. 14. Sorry, it was an “honest mistake.” By the way, is there such a thing as “dishonest” mistake?
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Inviting you for a pilgrimage to Naju, Korea this Oct. 17-22 to meet the Korean visionary Julia Kim with whom we experienced a “Eucharistic miracle” in May 1991. God willing, 14-year-old blind girl and healer Fatima Soriano will join us in this pilgrimage. We are looking forward to grace-filled moments with Julia and Fatima. For particulars, please call 7217457; 5238581 to 88.
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P.S. How do you say in Japanese a “lowly woman”? Hamburger (humble girl)!
I think, that’s what we need in our country right now.
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A moment with the Lord:
Lord, help me to be honest and humble so that I can listen and respond to your call. Amen.