February 2, 2008


4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Matthew 5:1-12a: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven”

When I was young, my Lolo would tell me not to play in the forest. The forest dwarfs might play with me and I will lose my way home. But he told me the solution: Invert my shirt and I will find my way back home. I have never been lost in the forest but I know it is not true. But I have a hunch this is also true…not in the real forest but in the “forest of life.” We need to invert, not our shirt, but our values in life in order to find our way back to God.

We are lost in the forest of life. First, we are caught in this vicious race for power, fame, security, and wealth. For many of us, happiness and success means to gain more and to control more. Second, the society dictates the meaning of success and happiness and we unconsciously aspire for them. Who told us that a lady or gentleman should be married in order to be truly happy? Who told us we should have at least a million peso in the bank to be successful? Who told us the “in-thing” today is to be able to say, “When I was in New York or in Sydney….” Who told us that being a public teacher or public servant is a lost cause? Who told us that the Philippines is a hopeless case?

Jesus dramatically challenges the values of the world by proposing the opposite, and challenges us to re-align our own values according to God’s standard. In Greek, the word “beatitudes” means "blessed" or "happy." A more contemporary translation: “a person who possesses an inner contentment and happiness that is not dictated by the external conditions". The Beatitudes answer an ancient inquiry as to what, ultimately constitutes happiness. Jesus explicitly preached in the Beatitudes – happiness does not lie in temporal and worldly pleasure, wealth, power, or prestige. The Beatitudes simply tell us that people who are not normally considered “successful or happy” in our society’s standard are in fact “blessed by God” and will inherit the Kingdom of God. Baligtaran!

A friend of mine who can easily buy the top of the line electronic gadgets, spend a fortune in a cruise all over Europe, surrounded by well-known people in the society, and has the access to everything the world can offer suddenly attempted to kill himself. He told me, “Willy, now I realized money cannot make people happy.” "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

An Ateneo college student decided to go home after six months of stowing away from his family after finding out that his father has another family. He realized that running away was a coward’s way of dealing with their family problem. He returned home and reconciled with his family. Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

At the latest Primetime Emmy Awards, the Winner for Creative Arts, Kathy Griffin said in her acceptance speech, “A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. This is my God now!” She was referring to her Emmy’s trophy as her God. Congratulations Kathy Griffin; but I am not sure if your “new god” can save you when your borrowed life comes to an end. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Fr.Rey Roda was tortured and killed by his abductors last month. His fingernails were extracted, his head was hacked, and his body was riddled with more than 20 bullets. He could have save his life if he listened to those death threats he regularly received and abandoned Tawi-tawi. But he decided to stay in his genuine desire to serve the poor Muslims of Tawi-tawi. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

On May 1981, John Paul II was shot and critically wounded by Mehmet Ali Ağca, a Turkish gunman. Ali Agca was sentenced to life imprisonment. Two years after, Christmas 1983, John Paul II visited the prison where Ali Agca was being held. The two spoke privately for 20 minutes. John Paul II said, “I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust." Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy

A young prison volunteer donated one of his two kidneys to his brother who needed a kidney transplant. He knew that his brother’s body might reject his kidney and go to waste. He took the risk. He gambled a part of himself for the sake of his brother’s health. A Grade school boy gave his “baon” to an old woman begging for food at the gate of Ateneo. He was scolded by his yaya. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.

A taxi driver found a new laptop computer inside his taxi and happily returned it to the owner. The grateful owner gave him P2,000; but many laughed at the taxi driver’s “foolishness” after humbly declined someone’s offer to buy the laptop at P30,000. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Mahatma Gandhi was the pioneer of Satyagraha —a simple, but profound philosophy that advocates “Active Non-Violence resistance” against all forms of evil —which led India to independence. We have our own People’s Power Movement in 1986. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

God loves men and women who hunger and thirst for peace and justice… who must work hard to feed his family… who are but unknown heroes or workers in power struggles played by the rich, powerful, and influential people… who follows what’s in their heart and goes out of the box … who are willing to be called “Tanga o Baliw” rather than to give-in to social pressures and worldly standards … and who must often suffer for their belief. St. Paul in encouraging the early church said, “Not many of you where wise by human standards. God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong… to reduce to nothing those who are something.” (1 Cor 1:26-28).

In the end, when we finally reach the gate of heaven. The gatekeeper will never ask the following questions: Do you have one million in the bank? Do you have a Phd, Licentiate, or Masters? Are a graduate of Harvard or Ateneo? Have you been in New York or Paris? Or what was your job and position? Do you have an Emmy or Oscar Trophy or Ateneo Award? These things do not matter anymore in heaven. The gatekeeper’s question is simply, “Were you able to love other people and made them happy?” In heaven … Only Love matters!

I won’t be surprised anymore if I reach heaven and find out that all citizens in heaven wear their shirts inverted.

- Fr.Willy M. Samson,SJ
Sacred Heart Chapel
Ateneo de Zamboanga

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