June 23, 2008

More than Many Sparrows

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 10: 26-33 “So do not be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows”

Nowadays, if you want to begin your day with fear or “with a bad start” … begin by reading newspapers! After reading the newspaper for just five minutes, fear… anxiety… uncertainties will dawn on you! Just this morning, I read that another possible series of oil increase and oil may hit an all time high P60 per litre. Samar Island and parts of Leyte province, including Tacloban City are now in darkness after strong winds caused a massive power failure; Some provinces in Iloilo are now under water up to the roof of the house caused by the typhoon Frank, and now battering the whole Metro Manila with strong winds and rains; plus the usual newspaper favourite reports on kidnapping, massacre, and other heart breaking news.

That is why I don’t want to begin my day by reading the newspaper for it will only spoil my day or even my breakfast. Newspaper for me is a thing to be done after my morning prayer and a good breakfast with my Jesuit brothers. A sociologist had said that the first five minutes of your day upon waking up will dictate the tempo or mood of your day. If you begin your day with fear and anxieties, your whole day will be full of fear and anxieties. If you begin your day with prayer, thanksgiving that we are still alive, and ask for God’s guidance to give us enlightenment to see Him moving in spite of the seemingly difficult situation of our families and our country, then our whole day will be a day of hope. After my prayer … I am now ready to read the newspaper, because in the end, the call is not to run away from our world but to face it with God.

In our gospel for today, it is interesting to note the word “Do not fear” was mentioned three times, as if Matthew wanted us really to remember those words as the central message of this gospel. DO NOT FEAR. When Matthew wrote his gospel, about 50 years after the death of Jesus, the early Christian communities had already begun experiencing trial via persecutions. In order to encourage them, Matthew reminded them that the Master had foreseen what would happen. And so Jesus consoled them by telling them not to fear for He will be with us.

But to have peace because we know Jesus is with us is not enough. Jesus wants to relay the same message to others through us. We need to do something and reach out. We are God’s visible hand. God gave us a hand … not only for us to receive graces from Him with an open hand and to our pockets… but we need to use our hands also to share what we have received. If upon waking up … I realize that I am healthy, maybe I should visit a friend or somebody who is sick in the hospital. Upon waking up, I realize that I have something to eat for breakfast; maybe I should give something to somebody who still needs to find breakfast. If upon waking up, I realize that my father and mother want an annulment, I can still be grateful to God because I still have parents, while others have none at all; therefore I should do something to help fixed the problem. Upon waking up, open your eyes, thank God and know that our problem is lighter than others and we are more fortunate than other people.

The grace is to know that we are blessed and fortunate and everything is gift; and therefore after receiving, I need to share according to my means… and according to what my arms can reach. In the end, this world is actually a very liveable and beautiful world when we know that someone cares and will lend a helping hand. I guess, natural calamities and man-made crisis like the rice and oil crisis will always be there… and people will continue to starve… but we can always share something to ease the hunger for food and the hunger for love. Jesus said in our gospel today, “What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light, what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” The Christian optimist sees opportunity in every danger; the pessimist sees danger in every opportunity. For Jesus, running away was never an option.

Our gospel for today is challenging us to be more daring and courageous to face our trials and see opportunity in our crisis. Be confident to face the challenges in your life, be creative, think outside the box and strategize in order to reach out and help less fortunate people! Orient yourself with your family’s crisis by staying home and finding a solution and not by running away. Do not fear. Orient yourself with our country’s situation by reading the newspaper, if the solution is beyond your control, at the least pray for our country and then do something within your reach.

Our gospel says, ““Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” God knows us well … and He knows also our capacity to do something for others. Do not fear. To those who know how to go beyond and share themselves to others, they discover God’s love and presence within them.

In the first chapter of St. Augustine’s classic, City of God, it addresses the disaster of the destruction of Rome by the barbarians. Augustine narrated all the suffering of the people and emphasized that the Barbarians tortured, raped and killed the Christians. They desecrated and destroyed the churches, but they failed to desecrate the Presence of God in the believing Christian, and could not steal God from them.

We have valid reasons to fear in our present situation today. Yes, we have to take care of our families, particularly our children. Yes, we have to be careful about our own health, going to the doctors when we need to, eating correctly etc, etc. And yes, we do need to be alert from the bombings, kidnappings, robberies, oil increase, and rice crisis in our midst. But fear? No, we do not need to fear. No matter what happens to us, we will always have God. We do not need to be afraid.

So the next time you turn on the news or pick up the paper and read: Alert, Breaking News, Crisis looms or whatever, remember even if the news is far more serious than the rice crisis and the Ces Drillon kidnapping, or less serious than the coming fight of Pacquiao this month, or as mundane as who will be the members of the next season of Pinoy Big Brothers, the only thing that you and I need to be concerned with, is the One thing that makes every moment of our life not just bearable but beautiful, and that is the very Presence of the Love of God within each of us. He will make a way. And he will make all things beautiful in His time.

With faith and conviction, let us console one another.
Jesus tells us, “Do not be afraid; you, we, are worth more than many sparrows.”

- Fr.Willy M. Samson,SJ

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