February 16, 2008


2nd Sunday of Lent (A)
Matthew 17: 1-9: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased;
listen to him!”

The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office reported last Jan 21 that the winning ticket combination 4-8-11-13-22-26 won P133 Million, the largest lotto jackpot since 2002. Four lucky Filipinos became instant millionaires. Two days before, thousands from all walks of life flocked to lotto outlets nationwide after the newspaper reported the prize had gone up to P 100 million. They were hoping to become an instant millionaire!

Nilda grew up in Cagayan de Oro in a poor family. Her best friend married an American and regularly sends dollars and chocolates. Nilda followed her best friend’s advice to try the mail-order bride website. She got married to an Italian who owns a small restaurant in Rome. Nilda was not as lucky as her best friend. She was verbally and physically abused by her husband. She was treated like a house-helper by her husband’s family. She went home emotionally disturbed. Her Italian dream turned into a lifetime nightmare.

In the midst of the recent broadband deal scandal that rocks Arroyo’s government today. An Aussie friend told me that he used to admire Filipinos’ EDSA revolution in 1986. It was one of the most peaceful revolutions in the modern time. But he was amazed how EDSA II, the so called “EDSA III”, and numerous coup d’etat followed suit. He commented, “In the Philippines, if the Filipinos want to change their President, they just march to EDSA or to Manila Peninsula and call for people power. Instant political solution!

I am a veteran of EDSA I and EDSA II; but with the present scandal in the Arroyo government, I am not that keen to join another people power movement to oust President Arroyo. Corruption in this administration should be condemned but I don’t want other parties and individuals to capitalize the situation for their own selfish political interest. CBCP calls for a “communal action;” but it should not be equated to rallies and street protest. We should engage ourselves in a serious prayer, careful discernment, and have a broad-based consultation and dialogue, and not to jump hastily to another EDSA for the sake of ending it soon or to just get rid of GMA. I am tired of moving in circles. The two EDSAs where we victoriously ousted a corrupt government in haste did not bring us to new heights.

There is a “lotto attitude” in our midst, the culture of instant gratification. Anything that is “instant” is good! Instant coffee, instant noodles, instant pain-killer, instant trial separation, and instant college degree from the “diploma factory” in Recto Avenue. We want to lose weight in few weeks but we don’t want strenuous exercise and disciplined diet. We take Bangkok Pills! We don’t want to fall in long line and sweat for our driver’s license. And so we pay the “fixers.”
We want everything to be done quickly. We don’t have patience anymore to go through the process and struggle. We want shortcuts… we want quick results. We do not want inconvenience. We do not want to suffer. We avoid the cross. And because of that, we don’t grow.

In our gospel, Jesus took with him Peter, James and John and led them to Mount Tabor where he was transfigured instantly before their eyes. Jesus allowed his disciples to get a glimpse of his divinity to inspire them and see the possibilities of their own transformation.

Peter was awe-struck, “Lord it is good that we are here. I will make three tents here …” At that instant, he wanted to set up an instant dwelling place with Jesus, Moses and Elijah. The moment was so consolingly beautiful that Peter did not want to leave the mountain anymore.

But the voice of the Father interrupted him, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” The words of the Father was intended for the disciples and summed up everything. Our own transfiguration is not in the mountain but down in the plain - by listening to Jesus and carrying our daily crosses faithfully, “bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God” (2 Tim 1:8).

On their way down, Jesus said, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Jesus wanted to keep his messianic secret. He did not want “instant disciples” who sees him as an instant messiah who can deliver anything instantly! Jesus wants real disciples – seasoned and matured by their daily crosses and struggles. Jesus does not want spiritual babies … he wants spiritual giants!

We have glimpses of hope to inspire us. We need not to be mesmerized and tempted by the culture of instant gratification! We need to be at “home” with the virtues of waiting, sacrifice, hard work, monotonous daily work, and commitment. When God commanded Adam to till the soil and Eve to suffer pain in child bearing, these were not only for punishment but for corrections. God wanted them to see the value of hard work and enduring pain. God was giving them opportunity to correct their mistakes and regain their human dignity after falling to the devil’s temptation of instant gratification. In our last Sunday’s gospel, Jesus did survive the temptation of instant food, honour and power. (Mark 4:1-11).

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin,SJ summarized it well: “Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability- and that it may take a very long time…Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”

One Friday morning in New Bilibid Prison, an inmate came to me for confession. In the end of his long litany of sins, he said, “Father, mas masarap palang pakainin ng tuyo o sardinas ang aking pamilya mula sa aking pawis kaysa ng masasarap ng pagkain na galing naman sa pagnanakaw.” I gave him God’s absolution and blessing. His face lit. Tears flowed in his face. And he smiled … A glimpse of human transfiguration!

- Fr.Willy M. Samson,SJ
Ateneo de Zamboanga

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