The story is told about an army general who arrived in heaven and was given a subdued welcome. The same happened to a Marine general. But when a police general arrived, he was given a rousing welcome complete with a marching band. Grumbling, the first two generals complained to St. Peter about the glaring difference. Whereupon St. Peter said: “Let it be for now. Let us celebrate, for this is the first time a police general made it here.”
In today’s Gospel (Mt. 20, 1-16), Jesus tells His disciples: “Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Who indeed can know the mind of God? And who are we to impose upon God our own standards and measures? Let us stop complaining, grumbling, and comparing ourselves with others. Let us focus on God, not on each other, in our journey to His heart.
Those who always grumble, complain, and compare themselves with others are insecure persons. Sure, there are such things as fairness and fair play, but there are also such things as grace and generosity. The former can imprison us, and the latter can liberate us. “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be lesser or greater persons than yourself.” Words of wisdom from “Desiderata”!
Last week in Japan we made a pilgrimage from Tokyo to the shrine of Our Lady of Akita via the Shinkansen bullet train. The train had a maximum speed of 330 kilometers per hour, covering 600 km in just under four hours. It was a comfortable and convenient means of transport. Wishing and praying that our country will also have something like it someday, soon.
This time is a beautiful time of the year in Japan. Summer is almost gone and the golden rice fields are ready for harvest. Japan is self-sufficient in rice. Wishing and praying again that our country will also be so someday, soon.
During the trip to Akita, I had an interesting conversation with our Japanese guide, Yumi. She told me that there were about 30,000 suicides in Japan each year, caused by bullying, family and relationship problems, and work-related pressures. More than ever, we must go back to the basics and concentrate, not on quantity, but quality of life, and focus, not on success, but on meaning in life.
A highlight of our pilgrimage was our visit to the shrine of the 26 martyrs of Japan. Our first Filipino saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz, whose feast day we celebrate on Sept. 28, was martyred in Nagasaki. In these trying times, are we ready to stand up for our Master and the Gospel, and face oppression and persecution for doing so? Let it not be said that we played it safe when our Master was calling us to become His witnesses.
I thought I was going the extra mile for septuagenarian pilgrim Michael by getting his shoes from the rack and giving them to his wife, Brenda, to put on him. But one morning, I saw a fellow SVD priest in Japan, Fr. Bobby Solis, get the shoes from the rack, kneel down, and put them on Michael himself. We still have so much to learn about loving. We still have much of that “extra mile” to go, and extra smiles to give. Please remember that we are not just hired workers. We are also disciples with a Master.
Are you a generous person? Generosity can be measured in so many ways, but one sure measure is time. A person who spends time with, or “wastes” time for, others is a generous person. One such person is Fr. Rod de la Rosa, SVD, Praeses of Villa Cristo Rey, the retirement house of our elderly and sick SVD confreres. He takes time to be present to each confrere, and goes the extra mile for them. Father Rod stayed with Fr. Among Ricafort the entire night at the UST hospital before he passed away last Sept. 3. Indeed, people don’t care so much about how much we know, as about how much we care.
Sept. 29 is the feast of Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. We seek their guidance and protection. Our angels are there to help and strengthen us to fight our daily battles, and to guide and protect us in our battle against darkness and evil. Be with us especially in these dark and fearful times!
A moment with the Lord:
Lord, help us to stay focused on You, and not to compare ourselves with others as we journey on. Amen.
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