August 1, 2011

The Fireworks Within Us

18th Sunday in the Ordinary Time
Matthew 14: 13 – 21

One day, Jesus called a press conference at the Manila Hotel. The reporter asked Him, "The Philippines is burdened with lots of personal, family and social crisis. What are your plans to help us?" Jesus replied, "I will ask my disciples to help." "You trust them a lot? Suppose they failed, what’s your Plan B?" Jesus smiled, "I have no other plans. I’m sure, they can do it."

In today’s gospel, the death of John the Baptist must have had caused deep pain to Jesus. By this time, Jesus was also tired of moving from one village to another, doing all sorts of work alone. He may have felt the fatigue of the ministry that he suddenly decided to withdraw from the crowd. But when Jesus saw the big crowd, he felt pity on them. But he could not do it alone. The ministry was getting bigger. He needed help. He knew it was time to bring his disciples in the frontier. He needed to wake his disciples’ potential as leaders and healers of the society.

And so Jesus said to his disciples, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food themselves.” And they hesitantly responded with five loaves and two fish. But that small act of generosity was enough for Jesus to make a miracle and feed five thousand souls. Thanks to the disciples’ five loaves of bread and two fish. But honestly speaking, Jesus could easily make a miracle without his disciples’ contribution. But he wanted to encourage his disciples to get out of their comfort zones, be empowered and have their own miracles in God’s name.

We need leaders. Our society is in need of good leaders who can inspire and bring us to greater heights. Sad to say, we have a short list of possible good leaders in our midst. Our gospel today is challenging us to start forming leaders by encouraging individuals and groups to start sharing their loaves of bread and fish. No miracles will take place in our lives unless we share our loaves and fish. When one discovers his giftedness, he also discovers his mission. Like Jesus, we are duty bound to empower others to help themselves.

But do we know the art of empowering people? One day an old lady invited me for lunch in her house. Knowing that she was really poor, I politely turned down her invitation. But in tears, she replied, “Bakit po Fr.Willy? Dahil po ba mahirap lang kami, wala na kaming karapatang pakainin kayo? Yung mayayaman lang po ba ang pwedeng maglibre sa inyo?” I was taken aback. She was right. The poor are not just beneficiaries of our kindness; given full trust and encouragement, they could also be potential helpers, leaders and evangelizers as well.

But how do we empower people? Do I believe that each person is unique and capable of making a difference to our society? Do I consciously encourage anybody to develop his/her talents? Can I trust them to do something big and important? Can I entrust my pet project to my assistants? We are good leaders or managers, if the people under us can manage themselves even without us; or our ministry survives and flourishes even when we are gone. We are good parents, if our children can take care of themselves while we are away from home. We need to form confident, independent and highly motivated individuals who can stand on their own and lead. The measure of success of our evangelization program is when our subjects become evangelizers themselves.

We need to form leaders, and not mere followers and admirers of us. Sometimes, the cause of our fatigue comes from our inability to delegate some of our work to others, because we don’t trust them. And in the process, we don’t inspire them to wildly dream and empower themselves. Remember this – to trust is the key to confidence build-up. If Jesus could only sing a song today, he will sing the “The Fireworks” of Katy Perry to remind us of who we are. Here are some lines:

Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
It's always been inside of you, you, you
And now it's time to let it through

'Cause baby you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go, oh
As you shoot across the sky

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colors burst
Make 'em go, oh
You're gonna leave 'em falling down

Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon

Let’s remember, it is better to commit a mistake for trusting somebody and failed, than to commit a mistake for not trusting somebody for the fear of failure. Jesus has no plan B. He has only one plan for us – to assist Him in His vineyard.

- Fr. Willy M. Samson,SJ
St.Ignatius of Loyola Parish, Brgy. Tetuan,
Zamboanga City.

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