Thursday, October 18, 2018
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Moments

Yes, but …

The story is told about two sisters who had not been on good terms for a long time. There was deep resentment and animosity between them. Nothing and no one could make them reconcile with each other. Then the older sister became ill, and the younger one came to visit her and asked for forgiveness. They embraced—a beautiful moment indeed. Then the older sister said: “Yes, I forgive you, but that does not count if I get well, OK?”

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In today’s Gospel (Mk. 6, 1-6), we hear how astonished Jesus’ town mates were by His words and what He has done. “Where did this man get all these?” they said. What kind of wisdom has been given Him? What mighty deeds are wrought by His hands? Yes, but they ended up criticizing Him, and then taking offense at His words and deeds! Their admiration was soon replaced by condemnation. Like them, human as we are, we see the negative more than the positive in people. Why? There is such pride in each one of us that makes us pull down whoever rises higher than ourselves.

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Remember what our elders often told us, that people throw stones only at mango trees bearing much fruit? Sad but true. Such is human nature. Such is our Filipino culture. We are good in the game of leveling, and we have many ways, often unpleasant, to ensure that no one goes ahead or stays ahead of us. The things we do because of our insecurity!

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If it is any consolation, someone said that if people throw stones at you, it is because you bear much fruit. And if people stab you in the back, it is because you are ahead of them.

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It must have been a painful experience for Jesus to be misunderstood and rejected by His own people. Isn’t that our own experience, too? But Jesus teaches us to go beyond our hurts and pains. He still went on to teach and cure the sick in the synagogue. In other words, He still did His best for them. He did not easily give up on them. We, too, must not easily give up on one another. Yes, we are good in the game of leveling—and labeling. How far easier it is to put people in a box and make generalizations!

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“He was amazed at their lack of faith.” Quite frankly, I was amazed at Jesus’ reaction toward the people who rejected Him. He could have turned angry, violent, or disgusted. He could have become sad or apologetic, or worse, afraid and troubled. But no: He just understood them, and took no offense at them. What a contrast! The people were so insecure and unsure, but He was so secure and sure of Himself. In other words, He did not go down to their level. He teaches us today not to go down to the level of detractors, and not to play their game of destroying and condemning.

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A prayerful person is one who really listens to God, and speaks goodness whenever he/she can. Yes, but there are many “prayerful” persons I know who listen voraciously to every bit of rumor going around, and take pleasure in speaking ill of other people whenever they can.

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Please take a look again at the image of Our Lady of Fatima. Notice how her head is slightly bent to the left? That is because the heart is located in the left side of the chest. Yes, she listens with her heart. Her left ear is listening to the hearts of people, and her right ear is listening to the voice of the Lord. She shows us what true prayer is—a genuine listening to the hearts of people around us, and to the voice of God to guide us.

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“A woman of faith.” That is what best describes Maria Braulia Almaden Dumas, who passed on last week at 89. Widowed at the early age of 36, she single-handedly raised all her eight children. The eldest, Belle (a culture change consultant), was 14, and the youngest, Eddie (a structural engineer), was only 13 days old, when their father died. From her brood also came a lawyer, a nurse, a doctor, a finance officer, and two priests, Father Budds and Father Ric, SVD. This simple teacher ended her career as a regional science coordinator (Eastern Visayas) of the Department of Education. She was a woman of hard work and deep faith.

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I encountered another woman of faith in the person of Lola Sabrina. This 81-year-old woman arrived in a tricycle at our SVD Mission Center in San Jose, Batangas, last June 30, looking for a priest to administer the Anointing of the Sick to her 60-year-old nephew. It was night, the barrio roads were rough, and it was such an inspiration to meet a woman who went out of her way for the healing and salvation of a loved one.

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On my way home from the sick call that night, the thought that kept coming back to me was: “If I died tonight…” It is a valid question we all should ask ourselves sometime. Think about it. Most of all, pray about it. It is not just a question of preparedness, but also a question of faith.

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Think, too, about this: “Whether we are 20, 40, 60, 75, or 90, whether we have succeeded or failed in life, remember that life began again when we woke up this morning. Yesterday is gone and done.

Tomorrow may never come. But today is here, the first day of the rest of our lives.”

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A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help us to say yes to love, and to life itself, with no ifs and buts. Amen.

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TAGS: acceptance, Forgiveness, labeling, leveling, persistence, rejection
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