Save Our Souls

It is a spiritual curiosity how God speaks to us all the time, but often distracted, we cannot hear. But our faithful God is persistent, knocking constantly on our hearts. Save Our Souls is the crafty name of a beer house along the Chao Phraya. As I worked my way through the taps, I mused over the name amid our culture of authority and hierarchy, and of how we sometimes find ourselves saying ‘yes’ when we really mean ‘no’.

“He went and said to the first, “My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not go,” but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, “Certainly, sir,” but did not go.” (Today’s Gospel)

The church is outside its doors, it has always been. Today, social issues caused by the pandemic has only underlined this in an urgent way; God knocking on our hearts to address this pastoral need. There are many people out there bogged by personal issues. They will always be. It puts people into a search, seeking to understand life, searching for its meaning. Some end up at mass in church.

Save Our Souls is not only a cry upwards, but also a cry sideways. We are in this together. At every mass, there are people who come but will not fully partake of the sacraments. In the pews, there are people not yet baptised. Yet, they come. After everyone leaves, there is a lone person kneeling in desperate prayer. The reason they come. Should we do more to reach out to them, can we? We can only do so when we acknowledge our togetherness in life. We need to look out for one another. Save Our Souls is this collective cry.

“There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interests first, but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead.” (Second Reading)

Ite, missa est. Go, it is the sending. At the end of every mass we are sent outside the doors, into the world. The celebrant says, “The mass is ended. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”. We are sent into this togetherness, to reduce this competition. We the laity, are sent to be pastoral, to be shepherd to them who need direction. We respond, “Thanks be to God”. We make a promise, we say “yes, I will go”. This is a good time for musing. Which of these two sons am I?

The Church has a hierarchy, which itself is not bad. But we the lay can do more so that it does not remain too clerical. Go, we are sent, the church is outside its doors. The lay faithful are called to rise, and to serve in today’s world where there is now a wide chasm between seeker and church because personal issues are getting more complex and church teachings alone cannot bridge this chasm. Knowledge and information no longer have the same authority without testimonies of personal encounters of the Gospel. Go, we are sent, to authenticate the Gospel.

Even without this pandemic, we have already been suffering a poverty of faith. Around us are many seekers sending out an s.o.s for direction. We the laity are placed in this vineyard to pick up such calls. We did say yes, did we not, or did we mean no?

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Always employable

During the initial days of the lockdown, I would walk the 5 km from work to home as a form of prayer. Shops and cafes were all shuttered, roads quiet. I needed my prayer to take a physical form, to be doing a sacrifice by discomforting myself. One day the sight of the long line of motorcycle taxis with their drivers standing idly by jolted my spiritual consciousness. Would not my prayer be more effective if I rode home in comfort which will provide for the driver to be employed?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways”. (Today’s First Reading)

I have always worked a long time with my employers. I fill myself with envy every time I see a new hire coming in with higher wages and better benefits. Loyalty doesn’t pay. But the thoughts of this world can throw us spiritually off-guard. The one denarius in today’s Gospel buys us a new way in which we must think.

“They took it but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius?”

A wife worked 25 years on their spiritual lives before seeing her husband baptized. A father toiled 30 years by example before his son re-embraced the faith and return to Church. A person who seem not to have don’t anything kind and right in life ask to be baptized on his death bed stealing the glory of heaven with his last breath. In the ways and thoughts of God, there is no envy, only true love.

The landowner goes out every hour to hire workers for his vineyard. This is the love of God that constantly searches for us even till the eleventh hour. The ways and thoughts of this world will always cause us to stumble in our spiritual lives. “Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” The way of God always gives us the opportunities to return to him despite our numerous stumbles. In this sense, we are always employable in today’s Gospel context, the one denarius always available to any one of us.

Being “always employable” allows us the opportunities to encounter the ways and thoughts of God. His ways generous, ours envious. In life, as long as we are alive, God does not judge or condemn us, unlike how we judge one another. Like the idle taxi drivers waiting to be gainfully employed, we spiritually stand in the courtyard of today’s Gospel waiting for God the landowner to employ us. When we make ourselves available at daybreak, we are prepared to be like St Paul, spiritually conscious, intentionally working in the vineyard, in the fields of mission to make God’s way known.

“I am caught in this dilemma: I want to be gone and be with Christ, which would be very much the better, but for me to stay alive in this body is a more urgent need for your sake. Avoid anything in your everyday lives that would be unworthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Second Reading)

Sometimes it is not always about being discomforted. As you complete your ride in the airconditioned comfort of a taxi, you add on an extra above the metered fare. A few baht, not much out of your pocket. But to the driver, he just encountered the mercy of God through your action. So we must remain employed.  

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Satisfaction of revenge

Revenge, we think, is satisfying. We cannot help crawling towards it like an ant towards sugar. When we are wronged and life suddenly changes for the worse, we are understandably angry. Very few can forgive immediately. We want to remain angry perhaps to justify ourselves. Allowing anger to fester is like ignoring the corrosive effect of rust. It takes its time to destroy you.

“Mere creature of flesh, he cherishes resentment” (Today’s First Reading)

A festering anger breeds resentment. We cherish resentment because it is somewhat sweet, like a baby given a sweet before an injection. Like a baby we can become dependent on a pacifier which resentment can be. Unable to let go and unable to find satisfaction, we crawl deeper towards revenge. For most of us, revenge will remain a fixation of the mind. But that is enough to harm our spiritual life.

Revenge is like running but no more than running on the spot. When opportunities arise, we take slingshots at the reputations of those who hurt us. We devilishly desire to climb out of the hole they threw us into and do better than them.  We fantasize one day meeting them to have one last kick at their groin before we can say we forgive. Revenge is like running on the spot, desperation leading to fury, our feet digging the ground below sinking ourselves into bitterness.

“Alive or dead, we belong to the Lord” (Second Reading)

Christ has come to lead us into the fullness of life. This fullness is satisfying. It gives us peace amidst any turmoil. Fullness of life erases all traces of resentment, deflates the fantasy of revenge, and heal the corrosive hurt of bitterness. Fullness of life can only be attained when we start to forgive. Forgiveness has the immediate pain of an injection, and we will cry like a baby trying to reject it.

“Peter went up to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.” (Gospel)

Most times, we don’t want to forgive, not that we cannot. Often, this is because we are still waiting for the sweet of revenge. But for those who succeeded in exacting revenge, even they will tell us that the sweetness does not last. It does not bring the peace that we ultimately seek. It does little to satisfy and fill our life.

The mist of anger leads to the fog of bitterness. We have all experience many nasty turns in life, but each turn has led us to be who we are or who we can be today. Sometimes we refuse to acknowledge that we are in a better place because of what others have done to us. We are still bitter towards our ex-employer for firing us unjustly, but we are in a happier state today because of that. We are still bitter over our ex- 20 years on, but will we give up our happy family today to marry her?

Bitterness has a hold on us and only forgiveness can release us from its grip.

We are mere creatures and we crave for satisfaction. Today, erase the fantasies of revenge and make the decision to forgive, and we will begin to taste the sweetness of the fullness of life; a fullness that truly satisfy.

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Knocking on closed doors

Our workplace seems to be an area where we have acceptable conflict. Our values are pushed aside for the sake of work success. The message of Christian love is left at the door of our offices. Inside the office when conflict arise, we engage in bare-knuckled blows to each other’s reputations. There is a marked difference between being a friend or a colleague.

“If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother.” (Today’s Gospel)

Being a Christian, we have a personal obligation to not hurt our neighbour. This obligation is not passive or self-guarding. When we confess our sins, we also confess for what we have failed to do. One of our most common failures is to fail to love our neighbours when we go about our worldly affairs. Love is the action of evangelisation. Love is proof of Christian faith.

In the early days of this pandemic, we hear the rallying cries that “we are in this together” and that “humanity is one”. Imagine if there was mutual love for one another; this love would have been the vaccine against all the sufferings from this virus. These rallying cries are less audible now because in truth, we have found it difficult to love one another.

“Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love. If you love your fellow men you have carried out your obligations.” (Second Reading)

When we were baptised, we became a privileged child of God. A parent owes unconditional love to a child. God knows that a child cannot survive without love. But love can only survive if it is mutual. When we were baptised, the seed of evangelisation was planted in us. Evangelisation is our obligation. When we were baptised, talents were invested in us, not for keeping under our pillows but for us to invest to help our neighbours from hurting.

This pandemic has closed the doors of our churches, leaving us a message. In the struggles of these extraordinary times, the church is much needed outside its buildings. “We must look out for one another” is another rallying cry of this pandemic. There are many out there struggling with material needs but there also are many struggling with spiritual needs. It is our obligation to help in both. As the doors of the churches are closed, we are let loose to evangelise.

One area is to realise that our congregation is no longer the same. In this pandemic, some who have not been part of church are returning after many years, seeking, and searching. While some who have been an ever present may decide not to come back having lost grip of what has been church to them – a Sunday obligation. These ins and outs have changed the composition and needs of our congregation, and this is knocking on those closed doors.

Friends, colleagues, and strangers are alike; we are all neighbours. These knocks say to us that we must be church to them, a church alive in every area. There are no acceptable conflicts particularly now in this pandemic.

“If I say to a wicked man: Wicked wretch, you are to die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked man to renounce his ways, then he shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death.” (First Reading)

Knocking on closed doors

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Chessboard of life

When we are blessed to live pass major milestones of our age, we find that we grow in wisdom on the road of life. This road is a hard teacher. As we aged, we grow in practicality, our youthful ideals diluted in realities. As we enter our sunset years, we come into the end game of life. Our chess board was once full of pieces. Over time we realised that life involved making sacrifices, but sacrifices brought with them fulfilment of a good life lived.

“Think of God’s mercy, my brothers, and worship him, I beg you, in a way that is worthy of thinking beings, by offering your living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God.” (Second Reading)

We are perhaps not fully aware of our own capacity to be living sacrifices. Will not a parent willingly endure all the hardship of a child? Will not a spouse willingly take up the cross of suffering for the other? Mercy, love, is a great driver. One rook sacrificed can lead us into a meaningful end game of our life. “For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it”. (Today’s Gospel) 

“Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day.” (Gospel)

The road of life will show us that suffering for all of us is unavoidable. We must continue to travel on the road to our own Jerusalem. But it teaches us how to make the best of it. Redemptive suffering is a Catholic belief that when we unite our sufferings to Christ, we can redeem our sufferings for the physical or spiritual need of another. When we are fully aware of being redemptive in suffering, we take up our cross with intent rather than to allow our crosses in life to saddle us.

We can look at life as a chess game. For the average person, the major pieces will only come into play when we are older and tested by tougher issues. To prepare for our end game, we begin by moving our little pawns. Little pieces and small moves, but they shape the end game. Similarly, we can do little acts in daily life that will shape our behaviour so that when we eventually come to a crunch, we are able to respond in a way that would bring us fulfilment in life.

“Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind.” (Second reading)

Being a living sacrifice for another person, and to love the other above self, are behaviour models that contradict the way of the world. This is the “new mind”. The road of life will eventually teach us that the road the world wants to lead us up is a cul-de-sac. “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.” Chess is a game, life a match, for thinking beings.

We are not created for suffering, but suffering is an inevitable encounter along the road of life. Living our life as a living sacrifice is a strategy to prevent suffering in life to checkmate us.

“This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do.” (Second reading)

chessboard

 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

The mysteries of faith

During the week we celebrated the memorial of Pope St Pius X. He was the pope who introduced the “Decree on Frequent and Daily Reception of Holy Communion”. Perhaps over time since, we have been guilty of taking for granted our privileged reception of Holy Communion. Daily and frequent availability have somewhat taken away the awe and wonder of this mystery of our faith. The memorial also reminded us this fact: the succession of popes can be traced all the way back to Peter.

“So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’” (Today’s Gospel)

This too is somewhat mystery. This unbroken line to the apostolic church.

Today, science has revealed many hidden mysteries of nature. Knowledge has schooled us, and information has shaped our attitude towards the unknown, somewhat denying us acceptance of mysteries. Affluence came hand in hand with progress, putting ourselves higher on the pedestal of life. Everything needs to be proven. We need to understand before we can believe.

Somewhere along the line, we have lost the sense of mystery. The early church had faith and grew to understand. Today we need to understand before we embrace faith. Faith transcends science. In this sense, faith is a mystery. At every mass we recite the mystery our faith, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again”. But our human mind is limited in its capacity to fully understand God.

How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord?” (Second Reading)

There are many mysteries of our God. He is this unconditional, non-judgemental love, rejected a hundred times over by us, but who continues to follow us silently in our earthly life. He is this humble Eucharist, waiting and giving himself up in Holy Communion, every day at daily mass even if there are very few people coming. He is a God so almighty, so why must he wait humbly and faithfully for us? This is the mystery of our faith, the mystery of our God. We can never fully understand but we can have full faith.

The mystery of God is in our everyday life. An Almighty God, Creator of the Universe desires a personal relationship with you and me. He comes daily and frequently in spiritual communion with us. When we take away our sense of mystery, we lose ourselves the daily opportunities of witnessing God actively intervening in our daily life, in the little details. We shut ourselves from being in awe and wonder of our God. It is the experience of mystery that gives us faith. And then, we can understand.

In today’s Gospel, You asked us, “Who do you say I am?” Andrew Louth, an Eastern Orthodox priest and professor of theology says, “the mystery of faith is not ultimately something that invites our questioning, but something that questions us”. Today’s question should leave us all in awe and wonder.

Rock 2

At Caesarea Philippi, the site of today’s Gospel. “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church”

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scraps of mercy

Naam mai koy mii kha. I had trudged two kilometres uphill to reach the seventh level waterfall, the top of Erawan Falls. In a Thai polite way, it means, “there is not quite enough water”. I muttered an impolite rude word. I was disappointed with the sight before me. I mused at the politeness, their choice not to curse, rather to accept. I realized that beneath that disappointment, I was happy to have made it to the top. I felt fulfilled from the journey of the climb.

On my way down I met panting pilgrims on the way up. I offered information that there wasn’t water cascading at the top. I was greeted with the same disappointment but every one of them trudged onwards and upwards. I had half expected them to give up and go back down. I realized then that I was no Moses coming down the mountain, no prophet they would listen to. Suddenly the message of today’s readings came to life. I had struggled with Jesus’ rudeness.

“He replied, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.’ She retorted, ‘Ah yes, sir; but even house-dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.’” (Gospel)

The message of today’s reading is that Christ brought salvation to all mankind. In Jesus’ time this politeness was extended to pagans and Gentiles, fulfilling Isaiah. Foreigners who have attached themselves to the Lord to serve him and to love his name and be his servants – all who observe the sabbath, not profaning it, and cling to my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain.” (First Reading).

I mused on the scraps that fall from the master’s table. We are panting pilgrims. Daily life experiences with its emotional ups and downs is a spiritual journey. Often arduous, this journey is like a climb to the top when our life completes. In life it seems that God does not always deal a fair hand. No one completes a suffer-free journey. Many even suffer throughout life. At times it feels that our spiritual life is feeding on scraps on mercy.

The panting climbers `underlined a realization. I took away the expectation of a beautiful sight as a form of reward for their journey, but I could not take away their spirit of wanting just to complete the journey. I realize the human in me is noisy. He seeks gratification externally, here to behold the sight of a cascading waterfall. The absence of that brought out a presence in me. There was that quiet fulfilment in me of having completed my journey despite not quite the way the human in me had expected. I carried down with me that scrap of satisfaction.

Circumstances in life will always continue to deal us bad hands. We always had grand expectations when we embark on journeys in relationships and careers. Often these expectations disappeared midway, but we continued trudging on through life. Our spirit continued to hold on to hope and faith, even if we did not realize it. We have all been through these everyday life experiences. In every disappearing expectation, we must look beneath our noisy human self to find that scrap of mercy holding our spirit together.

“God never takes back his gifts or revokes his choice”. (Second Reading)

God gave us the gift of life. The Canaanite woman emphasized a realization. God’s mercy is for everyone; Mercy expressed as unconditional love. This mercy accompanies us through everyday life. God appears to us in the form of hope. He does not feed us scraps. Our everyday life is a journey back to God our Creator. When this journey is over, our life will be fulfilled, waterfall or no waterfall. God does not revoke his choice.

We are panting pilgrims and we journey on in faith. Onwards and upwards.

waterfall

Erawan Waterfall, 7th level. Naam mai koy mii krub.

20th Ordinary Sunday

Intricate patterns

We are familiar with a ‘blessing in disguise’. Our life is filled with more of such blessings than we are aware of. A friend lost her job leaving her betrayed. Her eyes searched the heavens, “Why God?” A few months later she lands a dream job, an eventuality resulting from a series of events that began from that bitter loss. Our life is full of such intricate patterns. Our life’s master weaver is always at work.

Our life is a journey of events, one event after another. Things will continue to happen to us, one day and every day. We have little control. We will have our fair share of difficulties. Some events will conspire to leave us broken. Our eyes bleary, our hearts disheartened, “God, where are you?”

“After the earthquake came a fire. But the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there came the sound of a gentle breeze. And when Elijah heard this, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.” (First Reading)

We live in a time where much is available at the click of a mouse. But even the mouse has since moved on and replaced by a touch on the screen. We are also no longer patient with God. Becoming more competent as a human race has made us more reliant on ourselves. But life remains unchanged, continuing to take its course through events. When something unexpected happens, crushing our expectations and hopes, we expect God to appear in the mighty winds, earthquakes, and fires of our life.

The master weaver works gently and silently beneath the rubble of our crushed hope. He weaves every suffering towards peace, stitch every wound to heal. He is a fussy weaver paying attention to the smallest detail, often going back into our past to heal a small wound that we didn’t care much about. With an uncanny vision he puts together mismatching colours, linking seemingly unrelated events to bring about many blessings in disguise. He turns our scars into beautiful intricate patterns.

We must live with more patience accepting each unfortunate event that occurs in our life with faith that the master weaver will use it to make our life more beautiful than we can imagine. Sometimes the big patches of ugly patterns and designs are there for a lifetime. We are not able to conjure up any need for or beauty in them. A lifetime of suffering though can end in one short final chapter. This short final chapter make sense of every event that had happened. In one weave, the ugly patterns and designs are turned into an intricate art piece of supreme beauty.

Life is a journey of understanding and a journey into believing. Each scar turned into a pattern grows faith. But faith must come before a greater understanding. The lessons of faith can be found in our personal life history. We only have to look back into our life and join the events that happened to uncover the disguises and see how blessed we truly are. To find that God came in the gentle breezes.

It will only be from a life experiencing the Holy Spirit that water will feel firm enough to walk on. In faith, we walk on our trials and tribulations and they won’t sink us. Only then will come understanding. (Gospel)

intricate

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Basket case

It is a common statistic that in every parish only ten percent, or even less, of the congregation are actively serving in ministries. But it does not make this ten percent superior to the rest. I know many mothers who want to serve but their young, active children make it almost impossible to spare any time or focus. And for this ten percent, it is not always the same people all the time. People come and go. There are seasons too in our spiritual life.

What is more common is the hesitancy to serve. I don’t know enough. I am too busy. Church is not my thing. My faith is personal, I don’t share it. I am not good enough as a person. I commit a lot of sins. Maybe when I retire. This is not just the ninety percent but all of us. We have all been through these seasons as well. In our spiritual life, we have all been broken, fractured and fragmented. We have all been basket cases. Yet we are called to serve.

“But they answered, ‘All we have with us is five loaves and two fish.’ ‘Bring them here to me’ he said. He gave orders that the people were to sit down on the grass; then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing.” (Today’s Gospel)

The disciples surveyed the hillside. 5000, maybe more. Glancing into the basket, 5 loaves and 2 fish. God surveys the world in this pandemic. Many are suffering, hungry in many ways. He looks in his basket, who can he send? Our hesitancy to serve, perceived unworthiness and lack of conviction and courage makes us basket cases. In his basket, God is seemingly poor with only 2 fish – us. Poor because of our lack of conviction.

“Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty; though you have no money, come! Why spend money on what is not bread, your wages on what fails to satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and you will have good things to eat and rich food to enjoy.” (First Reading)

This pandemic has flattened the curve of status and wealth. It is telling us that the riches we desire of this earth will fail to satisfy. But it also tells us that the individual matter. Each enjoy equal importance. Our little actions count through simple acts of wearing a mask and social distancing. Imagine our world acting as one, each person just obliging by these simple acts for the sake of the other. We need to always look out for one another. Maybe there won’t be this pandemic today.

We keep learning the lessons of life. Different people come, different people go. Young age, old age. A journey through experiences and events of life. There will come a season in every one’s life to know that our life on earth is a shared life. A life of service brings fulfilment. A hunger is satisfied when we find this true purpose in life. Today is a day to contemplate if it is my season to be the fish in that basket?

We are all basket cases when it comes to our spiritual lives. God’s basket is seemingly poor. But this is who God is. In his infinite love he reaches out to us in our brokenness. He touches up our cracks with leaves of gold. Then put us into a life of service in a way we never imagined filling our life with meaning, purpose, and fulfilment.

In one blessing our brokenness yields riches twelve baskets full.

2 fish

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The treasure in this new normal

Treasures are of great value, no argument here. And the treasures that we often have in mind are almost impossible to find. If it really exists, given a glimmer of hope, we will persevere through challenging conditions just to try to get our hands on it. Today we hear that this treasure is indeed real, and within reach. This treasure is a meaningful and fulfilling life that gives constant happiness and inner peace even if we are suffering one thing or another through life.

Living a good life, always looking out first for the other person, is never easy. The emotional conditions we need to go through are steeply challenging. The price to buy is high, seemingly so. The good news today is that this treasure is real for all of us. There is enough of it and all of us can afford it. But yes, conditions are challenging but we will get help. Living a good life, following Christ, lead us to the treasure of peace. How valuable is this in this new normal from this pandemic?

“‘Since you have asked for this’ the Lord said ‘and not asked for long life for yourself or riches or the lives of your enemies, but have asked for a discerning judgement for yourself, here and now I do what you ask. I give you a heart wise and shrewd as none before you has had and none will have after you.’” (Today’s First Reading)

The currency we need to purchase this treasure of peace is the wisdom of Solomon. To barter for this wisdom, Solomon gave up hoarding his own life. He neither chose riches to put him ahead of others or revenge to set others back. This is the path of self-giving that will lead us to the treasure. Self-giving is always putting the other person first. And that is emotionally challenging.

Like a treasure hunt, we get clues along the path. Every little act of self-giving gives us a little satisfaction, contrary perhaps to what we expect of the cost to self. Satisfaction, like yeast ferments fulfilment. This is the help we get along the path as we make our way through our emotions of letting go of self, this taste of fulfilment that gives us the hint of peace.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds. When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use. This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” (Today’s Gospel)

Sometimes along the path of life, we get the clues wrong. We will make wrong choices. It is not easy living this life of self-giving. Like the wheat and darnel last week, today God reminds us that not once along this path will we be judged or condemned. That will only happen at the end of our life. This is the help we are given, as many clues as we need. The helpline here is the prayer of Solomon, to ask God for the gift of wisdom.

This pandemic with all its consequences has charged up the emotional conditions. But in each suffering, there is opportunity. Clues abound. The lesson from this pandemic is that humanity must act together. We are in this together. Simply put, to save our self, we must save the other first. Always look out for one another. This treasure of peace is real and available to all. No one need to lose out. The choice is ours, like it was Solomon’s. This is the wisdom of God.

Field of Buildings

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.” (Today’s Gospel)

17th Ordinary Sunday