17 October 2021, 29th Sunday in the Ordinary Time
Mk 10: 35-45
Ambitions are always coupled with good intentions. Those who aspire to join the medical personnel want to heal the sick. Those who desire to become educators want to teach the poor. Those who want to become lawyers want to defend the oppressed. Those who want to become priests and religious want to serve God. But how do we attain them? To attain our ambitions to which good intentions are attached we take the upward mobility. We climb the ladder of success.
To heal the sick, to teach the poor, to defend the oppressed and to serve God are intentions that point to one theme: service. But what kind of service? Oftentimes, our manner of serving is driven by success. We shout out our great performances, hang our tarpaulins and showcase our high ratings all because we want to keep power, position and prestige. Aren’t we echoing the same demand of James and John who asked the Lord, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left”? When ambitions that are coupled with good intentions are accomplished, we want to remain at the peak.
But the Lord Jesus has another way. If our human mind is too conditioned for upward mobility, Jesus proposes the downward mobility: from receiving to self-giving, from “me” to “we” and from being self-centered to becoming a centered self.
First, the Lord is inviting us to give what we receive. We received good education that empowers us take a lead in the family, in the community, in the society and in the Church. I encountered people who are successful in life but still find life empty. What is lacking? I think, it is because one experiences a scarcity in living life with a sense of meaning and of purpose. Those who have much, when they learn to give, find more in life. And so, Jesus is telling us that much is not more. Bishop Pabillo has this formula: less is more. It is not the “what” in giving but the “who” in giving. If the self learns to be open, to be generous, to be self-giving, one is truly rich. Give, not only what we have, but who we are.
Second, the Lord invites us to think of “we” and not just only “me”. Again, our intentions such as to heal the sick, to teach the poor, to defend the oppressed and to serve God are intentions that point to one theme: service. That’s good! But again, it easy to talk about the poor but are we with the poor? And another question that you and I have to ask ourselves: Am I poor? The poor criticizes us for lacking not only in credibility but also in integrity not only because we do not walk the talk but simply because we are not among them. Poverty of spirit, which is a Gospel call, urges us to live our lives in authenticity, in simplicity and in humility. If the people whom we serve, see and feel us that we live like them, among them and with them, we cannot but use all our God-given energies to uplift their lives. If we are gifted, it is because we are supposed to live as gifts. In thinking more of WE and less of ME, we are building, not just our common home but humanity.
Third, the Lord invites us to move from being self-centered to a centered self. Years ago, I attended a faculty meeting. At the onset, everyone was introduced with the degree appended to his/her name. One professor complained that she was not introduced as Dr. so and so with a Ph.D. As the emcee politely asked for an apology, the rest of the assembly laughed. The one seated beside me commented, “When we die, what will be appended is R.I.P.”
To move from being self-centered to a centered self is not just a psychological formula. Jesus teaches us that in reality, we all have to go through a lot of letting go in life. A woman has to let go of her 36-24-36 vital statistics if she wants to be a nurturing mother. A man has to let go of his body building figure in order to build his family. A teacher sacrifices much of his/her time just to prepare lessons for learners who thirst for knowledge and truth. Public servants have to let go of their personal whims and desires in order to advance programs for the common good. Students need to spend much time for studies to attain their dreams and to show justice to their parents’ hard work. Farmers and fisherfolks have to work with patience and perseverance just to feed not only his family but a nation.
A centered self is detached from “I-Me-Myself” mentality. Even if one is detached, a centered self is not spared from criticisms. But a centered self is not affected for (1) he/she is grounded on truth, (2) he/she works for the common good and (3) God reigns in his/her heart. If God reigns in our hearts, we do not have much, we have more!
Later, we will sing the Lord’s Prayer. When uttering the words, “Your kingdom come”, let us be reminded that we are actually asking from God, “Lord, let my ego go.” This entails a greater conviction and commitment. Are we all willing to take the risk to go downward instead upward? Amen.
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