Let’s Get our Hands Dirty

4 July 2007 Wednesday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time
Genesis 21, 5, 8-20a; Psalm 34; Matthew 8, 28-34

In liturgy, the Responsorial Psalm also provides the point of the readings. Today, this function is pretty obvious: The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

In the first reading, God hears the cry of Ishmael and Hagar, whom Abraham sent away at the suggestion of Sarah. When the skin of water given by Abraham dried up, Hagar thought that that would end Ishmael’s life. But that was not so in the plan of God. God too promised to build a great nation from Ishmael. So gave Hagar and Ishmael a well of water to drink. The end of the reading said, “God was with the boy as he grew up.” (New American Bible)

The Gospel gives as a startling revelation. The demons in the savage Gadarene demoniacs pleaded to Jesus, “If you send us out, send us to the swine.” And Jesus said, “Go then!” Jesus heard and granted their pleas.

One of my students in asked this question: “What does God do to solve our country’s problem or help those who are in need?” On one hand, we are used to these questions, and many Church documents have been dedicated to social justice and involvement. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) declared 2006 as the Year of Social Concerns (CBCP Pastoral Exhortation, May 11, 2006). Many talks and discussions have been organized. And in personal prayer, we realize that if Jesus listened to the plea of the demons in the Gospel, how much more will he hear our supplications. But something is amiss, with questions such as that of my student.

To ask what God has done seems to be taken from a standpoint of non-involvement. Christian faith in this question is approached as a problem to be solved, as something that is outside of us, like a math puzzle to be deciphered. Christian faith, however, is something we are immersed into. We live by it and breathe it. And thus, when we ask about what God has done for the poor, we are also asking, in view of the Christian faith, what we are doing about it. Not just on paper. The solution therefore is not in one sweep of a miracle, a divine intervention that defies explanation: the solution is in our very hands. What have we done?

And thus, the Responsorial Psalm is a challenge to us. “God hears the cry of the poor” can also be translated as “We, the body of Christ, hear the cry of the poor.” And indeed we heard them. We even put what we’ve heard on paper, and told everybody about it at the pulpit. An inspirational article about someone asking God the same question as above had God answering, “I created you.”

Now, enough said. The most of important part is yet to come: Let’s get our hands dirty.

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