Sunday, 05 September 2010 00:00
Honoring one’s parents is one of the highest values in Jewish culture. And yet in today’s Gospel, Mt. 16:13-23, Jesus seemingly requires hatred for one’s father and mother as a precondition for discipleship. In another passage, Mt. 8:21-22, Jesus declares that discipleship entails foregoing what to Jews would have been unthinkable — burying one’s father.
In order to interpret scriptures properly, we first ought to identify the literary genre of a passage; otherwise we may literalize what is metaphorical, reify what is symbolic, historicize what is mythical. Tour Gospel passage today Jesus speaks in hyperboles. Jesus does not undermine the virtue of honoring one’s parents, but underscores the urgency of proclaiming the Kingdom. Jesus does not instruct us to literally forego our responsibilities for our families, but to surrender ourselves to Someone far greater than all the humanity — God — and to commit ourselves to something more urgent than all that all our human endeavors and responsibilities — proclaiming God’s Kingdom.
What are my absolutes? What I live for and am willing to die for reveal my absolutes in life. How I spend my time and energies, what preoccupies my mind and heart, where my deepest happiness lies, manifests what is most important to me.
Do I know what my absolute in life is? Or do I coast along my day-to-day life, surrendering myself to the currents of chance and circumstance?
Do I lead a purposeful life, expending my time and talents for that which suffuses my ordinary life with extraordinary meaning? Do I dedicate my life to what I consider of utmost value?
* * *
For many of us Filipino Catholics, we commit ourselves to God in and through our devotion to our families. We live and toil for our families; we are willing to lay down our lives for our beloved kin. Cannot this be my manner of commitment to God and God’s Kingdom?
Yes, but not in the distorted maternal love Marlene has for her fugitive of a son Jason Ivler whom she has sought to protect and hide from the law, notwithstanding whether or not he is guilty of the crimes he has allegedly committed. Nor in the violent manner ex-cop Rolando Mendoza has sought to be reinstated into the police force in order to be able to provide for his family.
But yes, in terms of the millions of OFWs who withstand the loneliness and isolation away from home in order to sustain one’s family. Yes, in terms of those who toil daily in farmlands and factories, in government and private offices with industry and integrity. We worship our Absolute God in and through our absolute commitment to the people and tasks entrusted to us.
* * *
I was inspired by the example of some men and women who despite much hesitation heeded the president or a cabinet secretary’s invitation to work for the government. For most of them, moving from the private sector to the government sector entailed making huge sacrifice — accepting the diminishment in income and the loss of family privacy, facing the constant barrage of criticism and, possibly, threats to life.
The fact that these men and women have heeded the call to serve in government exemplifies the human spirit’s capacity for transcendence. At graced junctures of our lives, we will be called to overcome our fears and anxieties and to surrender all that is precious to us because of our conviction in a higher value, our dedication to God, our Absolute.
* * *
When a man offers his life for his deepest principles, such as freedom and democracy, he is conveying to us the paradoxical reality that while upholding the dignity of human life is paramount, his own life is expendable. Otherwise he would do all to preserve his life. In sacrificing his life for his convictions, he is confessing to us that there is something more valuable than life itself — absolute integrity and fidelity to our Absolute God. Rizal, Bonifacio, Macli-ing Dulag, Evelio and Ninoy. While they treasured life, they freely gave-up their lives in order to remain true to their ideals, to their absolutes.
Lord God, You are our absolute. To You we surrender our lives absolutely. Amen
Published: The Philippine Star