Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gospel Reflection

October 17, 2009
Anticipated Sunday Mass
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
by Rev. Fr. Nicandro Lim Jr.
A homily delivered in St. Mary’s Church, Bunbury, Autralia

First Reading:               Isaiah 53:10-11
Psalm:                         Psalm 33:4-5, 18-20, 22
Second Reading:           Hebrews 4:14-16
Gospel:                         Mark 10:35-45 or 10:42-45         

35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man's foes will be those of his own household. 37 He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. 40 "He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. 41 He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. 42 And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward."


“...James and John said to Jesus, ‘Grant us to sit one at your right and one at your left when you come into your glory.’  Jesus said to them, ‘You don’t know what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized in the way I am baptized?” – Mark 10: 37 - 38

What good can it bring us if we possess all power and authority of heaven above or the earth below us?  What can happen to us if we are entrusted with the privilege of becoming the master of everything?  Will it lead us to greatness?  Will greatness give us peace?  Will it lead us to happiness, satisfaction, or even fulfillment?

Someone told me that in one way or the other, we all nurse a secret dream of glory. We daydream that in some way we will stand out and be recognized. And so, there are times we fantasize about great achievements that will set us apart from all others to be famous. And the way we daydream vary from time to time but inside them, we are always at the centre - the most admired person in the room, the one scoring the winning goal, the actor picking up the Academy award, the author writing the best-seller, the intellectual winning the Nobel Peace Prize, or even just the one in the circle who tells the best story.  But then, what we are chasing at in all these?  Do we really want to be noticed, appreciated, or to become unique from all others so that we can be duly recognized and be loved? Will it give us peace?  Will it lead us to happiness, to satisfaction, or even to fulfillment?

I was told that having such secret dream is not bad in itself.  I was told that what’s less healthy in this is how we envision that glory for ourselves. Why?  Because in all our fantasies, glory almost always consists in being famous, in standing out, in achieving a success that makes others envious, in somehow being the best-looking or the brightest or the most talented person in the room. In our fantasy, glory means having the power to actuate ourselves in ways that set us above others, even if that is for a good motive. Before Jesus was born, good-hearted and religious people prayed for a Messiah to come and, in their fantasy, that Messiah was generally envisaged as a worldly superstar, a person with a superior heart and superior muscles, a Messiah who would reveal the superiority of God by out-muscling the bad.

However, what do we see in the Gospels?  We see in the gospels that real glory doesn’t consist in out-muscling the bad or anyone else but in Jesus Christ crucified.  He was offered precisely to challenge us and not to prove us that he was special by doing some spectacular gesture that would leave all of his detractors stunned and helpless: “If you are the Son of God, prove it, come down off the cross! Save yourself!”

With a subtlety that’s so easy to miss, the Gospels teach us a very different lesson: On the cross, Jesus proves that he is powerful beyond measure, not by doing some spectacular physical act that leaves everyone around him helpless to make any protest, but in a spectacular act of the heart wherein he forgives those who are mocking and killing him. That is real glory, and that is the one thing of which we really should be envious, namely, the compassion and forgiveness that Jesus manifested in the face of jealousy, hatred, and murder.

Now, we see this illustrated in the Gospels in the incident where James and John came to Jesus and ask him to give them the seats of glory at his side. Jesus takes their request seriously and does not, on that occasion, caution them against pride. Rather he asks them: “Can you drink from the cup [of suffering] that I shall drink?” In naiveté, they answered: “We can!” Jesus replies: “The cup that I shall drink you shall drink, but as for the seats [of glory] at my right hand or left, these are not mine to give.”

What Jesus was saying, in effect, was this: You will taste suffering, everyone will, and that suffering will make you deep. But, it won’t necessarily make you deep in the right way. Suffering can make you deep in compassion and forgiveness, but it can also make you deep in bitterness and anger. However, only compassion and forgiveness can bring glory into your lives.

Jesus defines glory very differently than we do. Real glory, for him, is not the glory of winning a gold medal, of being a champion, of winning an Oscar, or of being an object of envy because of our looks or our achievements. Glory consists in being deep in compassion, forgiveness, and graciousness - and these are not often spawned by worldly success, by being better-looking, brighter, richer, or better muscled than those around us.

We all nurse the secret dream of glory. Partly this is healthy, a sign that we are emotionally well. However, this is something that needs to grow and mature inside of us. Our secret dream of glory is meant to mature so that eventually we will begin, more and more, to envision ourselves as standing out, not by talent, looks, muscles, and speed, but by the depth of our compassion and the quality of our forgiveness.

Let me ask you again, what good can it bring us if we possess all power and authority of heaven above us or earth below us?  What can happen to us if we are entrusted with the privilege of becoming the master of everything?  Will it lead us to greatness?  Will greatness give us peace?  Will it lead us to happiness, to satisfaction, or even to fulfillment?  Think of Jesus and you’ll see what real glory or greatness means.

In the name of the Father...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Gospel Reflection

October 03, 2009
Anticipated Sunday Mass
Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
by Rev. Fr. Nicandro Lim Jr.
A homily delivered in St. Mary’s Church, Bunbury, Australia

Reading 1, Gen. 2:7ab, 8b, 18-24

The Creation of Adam
[7ab] then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; [8b] and (in the Garden of Eden) he put the man whom he had formed.

The Creation of Eve
[18] Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." [19] So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. [20] The man gave names to all, cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a hel-per fit for him. [21] So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; [22] and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. [23] Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was ta-ken out of Man." [24] Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Reading 2, Heb. 2:9-11

9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. 10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. 13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. 14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

Gospel Reading, Mr. 10:2-16

2 Pharisees came to him testing him, and asked him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a certificate of divorce to be written, and to divorce her.” 5 But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart, he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of the creation, ‘God made them male and female. 7 For this cause a man will leave his father and mother, and will join to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh,’ so that they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”  10 In the house, his disciples asked him again about the same matter. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife, and marries another, commits adultery against her. 12 If a woman herself divorces her husband, and marries another, she commits adultery.” 13 They were bringing to him little children, that he should touch them, but the disciples rebuked those who were bringing them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was moved with indignation, and said to them, “Allow the little children to come to me! Don’t forbid them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Most assuredly I tell you, whoever will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child, he will in no way enter into it.” 16 He took them in his arms, and blessed them, laying his hands on them.


“...But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female.  This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body.  They are no longer two, therefore, but one body...” – Mark 10: 6 – 8

Could two people be more different?  I wonder... A man was observing the golden jubilee of his wedding.  He was asked his secret, he responded: “On my wedding day, Joan’s father gave me a watch.  Across the face of it, he had printed, ‘Say something nice to Joan.’” A beautiful gift it is.
            Few days ago, there was on ABC National Radio a talk show about Successful or Happy Marriages.  They invited couples living together for 30 years onwards to ring them and to share how they made it, what they do and how they keep the marriage going.  I was told by a friend that so many participated and they mentioned important aspects in their marriage relationship that helped them.  Examples would be ‘openness,’ the reality of ‘give and take,’ ‘dialogue,’ ‘endurance’ and others.  However, in my own understanding, these people who participated were telling the listeners indirectly that along the earlier years of their life they underwent a kind of transformation as persons in relationship and not just as individuals living together.  Clearly, they were telling those hosting the talk show that the reality of married life is not seen on individuals living together but in a couple journeying together towards happiness and fulfillment.
             On the other hand, a Greek philosopher---Plato his name, beautifully said that man and woman are but half of their original size.  Genuine happiness only arrives when the two halves in question find each other and marry.  Thus they help each other reach full growth.  Following this thought, we can say that marriage should not shrink one’s personality.  On the contrary, it should double one’s own person and spirit in its fullest sense.  It becomes clear then that courtship is dreaming happy dreams together and a good marriage is bringing them down to earth and watching them come true---watching them come true.  I guess it is only in good marriage that what was dreamt about comes to reality as the couple grows in love for each other.
            There’s a bad news though, everyone’s aware of the alarming statistics on divorce.  One third of all marriages are ending before the divorce judge.  Some feel that percentage is too conservative, but in any case, these are no longer academic numbers since most of us have family members who are divorced.  Indeed, the dreadful plague has hit our own homes.  The good news however, is that there were studies that say one out of fifty seven marriages ended in divorce among husbands and wives that worshipped at church consistently---one out of fifty seven marriages.  Even more amazing was the finding that only one marriage in five hundred concluded in divorce in couples where there is organized scripture reading and prayer.  To paraphrase Patrick Peyton, the husband and wife who pray together have an above-average chance of staying together.
Now, could two people be more different?  I wonder...  Reflecting on our readings today, we can say that when God created humanity, he created not individuals but persons geared towards building a family, a community.  In the book of Genesis, God clearly said, ‘it is not good that the man should be alone.’  And so, God created someone, not something, to be his fellow---a lifetime companion who came from his very own bone and flesh.  Moreover, in the gospel, Jesus explained this truth through His prohibition on divorce.  You see, divorce disturbed Jesus since marriage for Him means undivided loyalty, service and love.  It is not just compatibility, comfort nor convenience.  It is love, a decision made by the couple for better or for worst.  But then, our culture teaches husband and wife to ask, ‘what’s in it for me?’  But Jesus wants them to ask each other, ‘What’s in it for us?’
Also, some married people tend to ask, ‘How can I complete myself in this union?’  But Jesus in the gospel wishes them to ask, ‘How can we complete ourselves?’  Indeed, it is true that it is not what a person does that makes or breaks the relationship but rather what the couple is doing/deciding that really make or break their bond.  If couples only learn to treat the other the way they treat their own selves, their marriage will become more attractive.
Remember, in this kind of vocation each must say,

 ‘I will do more than belong---I will participate.  I will do more than care---I will help.  I will do more than believe---I will practice.  I will do more than be fair---I will be kind.  I will do more than be friendly---I will be a friend.  I will do more than forgive---I will love.  Yes!  I will love---I will love...’

In the name of the Father...