Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
With the dawn of unrestrained individualism, concern for the family and the community value of freedom has increased, as individualism has been tagged with unlimited use and abuse of personal capacity. Many people think that with freedom anyone can do just anything as he pleases. This is a reason why we experience undesirable as well as immoral consequences, detrimental to family, neighborhood and nation. Let’s consider a few:
– Inconsiderate, unfounded criticisms – as freedom of speech on the presumption that it is better to talk and be relieved, rather than be silent and be burdened for life. However, St. Paul says: “serve one another through love…. But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another” (Gal 5:13-15).
– Unreasonable demands and complains – as regular courses of action of a person without weighing consequences, as well as considering his and others’ blessings. But people who complain excessively and demand unreasonably become burden to their families and to others. St. Paul says: “Let love be sincere….love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor….Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer….exercise hospitality….Have the same regard for one another….associate with the lowly….live at peace with all” (Rom 12:9-18).
– Uncontrolled bickering and loss of temper – as a person’s freedom of expression. He loses control of a situation, person or group, and tries to regain it by letting lose destructive words against others, and giving in to his temper. As consequence, he loses discipline and credibility. St. James tells us: “Where do the wars and…. the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members…. So submit yourselves to God…. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you. Do not speak evil of one another” (Jas 4:1-11).
– Abuse of power and influence – when a person uses everything in his position for his personal interests. Jesus says: “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all” (Mk:10:42-44).
Plowing is hard work, especially when done manually. I was assigned on an island parish where I tried to learn how to plow (with the help of a water buffalo). I made crooked and shallow furrows. I asked the farmer. He said: press the plow at an angle into the ground and look straight ahead.
To follow Jesus is to plow our hearts. It is not easy. Alone, we cannot do it. We need the expertise, the wisdom and the mercy of the Divine Farmer.
– We have to dig deeper into our hearts to uproot the weeds and sources of our sins, especially sins that have already anchored deep into our life. When the roots of sin are uprooted, we have to nail them on the cross with Jesus, for by dying He destroyed our death, and by rising He restored our life, and plant the seeds of virtues that the Holy Spirit gives us.
– We have to keep a steady eye on our vision as we live our life and serve the needy. This will be the gauge of our life on judgment day, for no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.
– We need openness and calm in accepting the will of God: a) through prayer (silence), for the world is too noisy to hear the Word of God; b) through the sacraments and Church activities, for the world has taught us to think only of ourselves; and c) through selfless service, for the world is too selfish and indifferent to the needs of the poor and the weak.
Having decided to follow Jesus, “stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1). There is no turning back, otherwise we make more crooked and shallow furrows. Let us be faithful to Jesus, as He said to the man who was ill for 38 years: “Look, you are well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may happen to you” (Jn 5:14).
Let us ask Jesus that through the intercession of Mother Mary and St. Joseph, His first disciples, we may receive the virtues we need to face the world of extreme individualism, selfishness and indifference. They raised the Lord in a human family; they will also receive us to their Family, with the Father and the Holy Spirit and the Angels and Saints.
In the Eucharist that we celebrate, and “feeding on Him we are freed from the bonds of individualism and, through communion with Him, we ourselves become, together, one thing, His mystical Body. Thus the differences are surmounted due to profession, to class, to nationality so that we discover ourselves members of one great family, that of the children of God, in which to each is given a particular grace for common usefulness” (Pope Benedict VI’s Homily, “The Sunday Eucharist is the Testimony of Charity,” June 17, 2010). Then we can persevere in faith, follow Jesus in the love of mission and proclaim that God is with us in time and in eternity.