Competition and Discipleship

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

The world has taught us to be competitive. Offices issue plaques and certificates of their standard to their employees. Schools put up honor rolls for those who meet their criteria for public recognition. Publicity is given to manufacturers that can produce more, and advertisements declare that their products are the best in the market. For recognition, media would even enumerate the richest and the most powerful people in the world. The sense of excessive competition has been a moving factor to the self-centered acquisition of wealth and power.

The Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Scribes would discuss among themselves who was better or best among them. A lawyer, to test Jesus, asked Him: Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest? (Mt 22:36). Even the disciples of Jesus, in their desire to have a share in the Kingdom they thought was of this world, asked: Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? (Mt 18:1). Wedding guests sought the places of honor in banquets (cf Lk 14:7-14); Jesus had to tell them: everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted (Lk 14:11). The Zebedee brothers asked Jesus to grant them seats in His Kingdom, one at His right and the other at His left.

There is no sense of discipleship in the ways of this world, for they are selfish, and anyone’s way in an unrestrained competition can lead to the ff:

– greed and indifference – when a person seeks wealth, power and fame only for himself and for his own interests. He gets things solely for his pleasure, demanding too much of other people, and disregarding the weak.

– resentment – when a person thinks or feels he is treated badly. This zaps out the vitality and the love in his heart, and pushes off the border all relationships with others.

– anger – when a person is displeased or annoyed with others because of some alleged unjust treatment. While resentment erodes the love in his heart, anger, that does not come from a loving relationship, builds up offensive strategies to retaliate for the hurt done, and the person loses control of himself and his actions.  

– prejudice – when a person mistrusts others due to some unfounded hatred, insufficient knowledge, or hearsay. In as much as most of his knowledge is assumed and not validated, the person misuses his God-given intellect and will and his power to choose.

Only with the grace of God can we weed out these stumbling blocks to discipleship and friendship with God in order to renounce possessions for the sake of relationship with Him and for the good of mankind. So, Holy Scriptures teach us:

a) Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be (Mt 6:19-21).

b) Put on…. heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do (Col 3:12-13).

c) Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil (Eph 4:26-27). Be not friendly with a hotheaded man, nor the companion of a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways, and get yourself into a snare (Prov 22:24-25).

d) Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you (Mt 7:1-2). Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor…. live at peace with all (Rom 12:9-18).

Our early philosophy lessons taught us that by nature all men desire to know. It expands one’s horizon of learning and outlook to life. Our catechism teaches us that man was created to know, to love and to serve God, and with His Spirit, we can grow in these responsibilities daily. In our relationship with God, especially in prayer and in upright relationship with people, His Spirit gives us the gift of prudence and wisdom, so that we may rightly decide to follow Him and conscientiously perform our duties.

When we come to celebrate the Eucharist, we declare that Jesus is our only possession, to lead us to the Father, for to know Him is to know the Father and the Holy Spirit. So, Jesus proclaims: “this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ” (Jn 17:3). So, “what does the LORD, your God, ask of you but to fear the LORD, your God, and follow his ways exactly, to love and serve the LORD, your God, with all your heart and all your soul….” (Deut 10:12).


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