January 26, 2008

Big Bang!

3rd Week of the Ordinary Time
Matthew 4: 12-23: “When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he
Withdraw to Galilee.”

For many years, a giant rules the Kingdom of Himosh. Every day the giant goes up to the hill and challenges the villagers; but nobody dared to challenge him because of his enormous size. One day, a little boy suddenly accepted the challenge and started walking towards the giant. To the boy’s surprise, the giant started to shrink as he comes nearer. When they are facing each other, the boy is taller than the giant. The boy asked his name and the giant said, “My name is FEAR.”

It is interesting to see when Jesus begun his public ministry, it was at the note that his cousin, John the Baptist was arrested and imprisoned. Suddenly, the possibility of being arrested and imprisoned became a reality to Jesus. Not a promising way to start an enterprise! … Warning! Looming crisis ahead! But without losing precious time, Jesus seized the opportunity and took the “Fear Factor” Challenge! He wanted to start with a BANG in his ministry by choosing the most challenging, most dangerous, but most promising place for change – Galilee. It was a defining moment! He took the relay’s baton from John and shouted his ra-ra-ra! : “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus was a smart strategist oozing with optimism. He knew the danger of going to Galilee but he was not intimidated. "The optimist sees opportunity in every danger; the pessimist sees danger in every opportunity." (Winston Churchill) For Jesus, running away was not an option.

But why choose Pit Stop “Galilee?” It was a melting pot of foreign cultures. Of all places in Palestine, the Galileans were most disposed to change, innovations and had a delight in seditions. Cowardice was never a characteristic of the Galileans. From eight century until the 2nd B.C., Galilee had been largely in the Gentiles hands. Thus Galilee made it more attractive to a new teacher with a new message.

Jesus was a wise strategist. His Father’s Enterprise to save humanity suffered a major setback with the arrest of John, but it didn’t stop Jesus from grabbing the opportunity for a potential “Big bang” in Galilee. Upon arriving in Galilee, he immediately recruited his first disciples and organized his rag-tag J-Team. After the Galilee Pit Stop, everything was history. In 2007, there were more than 2.4 billion Christians around the world. Big Bang! Jesus turned his crisis into an opportunity by facing the challenge, capitalizing strength and making a decisive move – a defining moment! Jesus was determined, confident and swift in all his actions. He knew the Kingdom was “at the Father’s hand.”(Matthew 4:17)

In 1980s Aluminum Containers Inc. was the major supplier of collapsible toothpaste tubes to Colgate and Close-Up. They enjoyed profit growth with the big demands. But in 1985, the two toothpaste companies shifted to plastic toothpaste tubes. The company was forced to close. Crisis loomed! But when Dr.Pedro, the owner, realized his old equipment could still be put to use, he seized the opportunity! He formulated his own local toothpaste and started manufacturing Hapee toothpaste. Dr.Pedro knew he could not compete with Colgate and Close Up in areas of promotion and distribution, he decided to cut price by 50% and successfully captured the market. The strategy: Target the multinationals Achilles’ feet: Price. Big bang!

In 1970s, hamburger became a hit. Hundreds of small entrepreneurial burger stores mushroomed in Manila. But when McDonalds entered the scene in 1980s, those budding burger houses started to fold up. Crisis loomed! Jolibee knew they could not compete with the US-based Mcdonalds. But to run away from the giant was not an option. They seized the opportunity. They upgraded their food preparation and sanitation, professionalized the crew and offer a Filipino-taste menu (sweet spaghetti with hotdog, yumburger against the bland Mcdo burger, and tasty chicken joy) against the Mcdonalds imported appeal. Their strategy: Be a Filipino. Emphasized its Langhap Sarap taste and hence, it’s Filipino-ness. The rest is history. Jolibee out-marketed McDonalds. Now after 32 years, Jolibee has 600 local stores and 30 international stores. Big bang!

Our gospel for today is challenging us to be more daring and courageous to face our giants and see opportunity in our crisis. Be confident to face the challenges in your life, be creative, think outside the box and strategize! Orient yourself on your enemy’s strengths and weaknesses - and yours. Knowing that we are in the loving hands of God, to leave our Nazareth and go to Galilee is a God-given opportunity.

Fr. Rey Roda, an Oblate missionary priest who works for the poor Muslims in Tawi-Tawi was killed last week. He could have avoided his bloody death if he listened to his nonstop death threats for ten years and left Tawi-Tawi. But he ignored them and decided to stay. It was a defining moment! He saw Tawi-Tawi as his Galilee - a potential ground for the unity of Muslim and Christians. His strategy: Muslim empowerment through education and advocating the culture of peace. He got a piece of his dream! Thousands of grieving Muslims and Christians paid him a respect last week on his burial. His death has fired-up the zeal of Catholic Missionaries and Muslims to continue his advocacy on peace and progress in Tawi-Tawi. Fr. Ramon Bernabe, OMI Superior, said, “The death of Fr. Rey is painful but is, at the same time, a blessing, a blessing for us, for his spilt blood, as a martyr, will nurture the faith. They killed the dreamer but not the dream.” Following the footsteps of Jesus … his death will not be in vain - the Big Bang will surely come one of these days!

"The highest form of insanity is doing the same things over and over, expecting different results. The point is, if you want different results – you have got to make some changes” (Bill Goodwin) – Courage! Do not be afraid! The Kingdom is at Father’s hand. Running away is not an element of growth and success. Face your giant! Go to the next pit stop … Galilee!

- Fr.Willy M. Samson,SJ
Jesuit Residence Chapel
Ateneo de Zamboanga University

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