25 July 2007 Feast of St. James, the Apostle
2 Corinthians 4, 7-15 Never Defeated
Have you ever experienced being pushed against the wall and there is nothing you can do? Or encounter a dilemma or a predicament where there is no solution in sight? Or faced with a physical disability that hinder your movement? Life has given us a lot of infirmities: physical, emotional, spiritual. Some of us are stuck with an issue for life. Some have experienced being abandoned by their parents, abused by a family member or dropped like a hot potato by a lover. Some of us carry a secret or a family feud that overburdens us. There are those who are terminally ill; but refused to be defeated by their illness. Today, the father of one of our students who died 40 days ago texted me and asked for our prayers. The son was a graduating student and died in his sleep. Two years earlier, their daughter also died. These are just some examples of people who are pushed against the wall, hard pressed, at wit’s end (windang na!), persecuted by gossip and ridicule, or experienced a series of failures.
The first reading from the letter of Paul to the Corinthians tells us of the spirit of the Christian in the midst of darkness. How can we see the glory of God in the midst of misery? First, when hemmed in or tight on a corner, the Christian finds a way out or an alternative solution. The foreigners who come to visit Payatas during my time there agree with one thing. You get to see the smile of people while sorting out garbage. You get to hear the laughter of children and see them playing on rubbish heaps.
Second, when persecuted by gossip and ridiculed by colleagues, or ostracized and bullied, the Christian never believes that he or she is alone. This is the experience of martyrs. Joan of Arc said when all of her friends abandoned her, “It is better to be alone with God. His friendship will not fail me, nor his counsel, nor his love. In his strength, I will dare and dare and dare until I die.” Christians believes what Isaiah said, “I will never forget you. Even if a mother forsakes her child, I will not forget you. I have carved you in the palms of my hand.”
Third, when at wit’s end, Christians still believes there is a solution somewhere. A Christian may be helpless, but never hopeless. The Christian believes that there is still something that can be done. We may not see where we’re going or where life is leading us — as students in the middle of there college years; but we believe that we are going somewhere.
Finally, we may experience a series of disappointments, defeats, and failures, however, we believe that these failures are not the last word. When knocked down, we rise up again — never knocked out. That is what we are: when we fall as Christ fell on the ground while carrying the cross; we rise again. And when we fall again, we muster all our strength and then rise again. Again and again. It is the cycle of death and life; of dying and rising again.
Undeniably one of the most enriching experiences I have this year is to be with the UP Maroons. Despite repeated losses, UP students continued cheering, “UP fight!” And after each defeat, the Maroons would pray and hope at their dug out. Around 1820 thereabouts, Ludwig van Beethoven composed his greatest works when he was almost totally deaf: 5 piano sonatas, the Missa Solemnis, the 9th Symphony with its chorale finale and the last 5 string quartets. The present age gives us Lance Armstrong, an American road racing cyclist, sports awarded, who survived cancer. In other words, the reading tells us that our spirits are never confined by our disabilities. We discover our illimitability: our mortality already holds the eternal.
* UP musicians, members of Musica Chiesa (Church Music), out of their spirits before Harry Potter. Musica Chiesa plays at 11:00 AM Sunday Student Masses. Taken at Eastwood City.