19 August 2007. 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 38, 4-6, 8-10; Hebrews 12, 1-4; Luke 12, 49-53
The second reading from the letter to the Hebrews gives us the central idea of the readings this Sunday: “Persevere in running the race that lies before us, while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” (12, 2). It exhorts us to ‘fix our eyes on Jesus’ in everything that we do. It tells us to commit ourselves to Christ. This is the primary commitment: all other commitments are subject to it. Our commitments to our families and our friends, for example, are secondary to this commitment. That is why, when responding to God’s will in a particular vocation, we may disobey our parents if they do not agree with it. Many priests pursued their vocations against their parents’ wishes. Many couples held on to their love for each other despite their families’ protests against their relationship. By doing so, by making a commitment to their loved one, they break their commitment to follow their parents. That is why Jesus said in the Gospel that He comes to bring division “a father against his son, a son against his father; a mother against her daughter, a daughter against her mother.” When we choose Jesus, we disregard the things that do not lead to Jesus. We do not choose which are against the teachings and values of Jesus. We do not choose what is against God’s will.
Every commitment then is a choice. And in life, we have to particularize our choices in terms of who we are and who we intend to be present to. With an array of options, we narrow down our choices. In the Gospel of Matthew (7,13), Jesus said that we should “enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction” but the narrow gate and the constricted road, “leads to life.” In Jerusalem, the narrow gate is a “People Only” passage in which only those carrying no possessions and animals can enter it. This metaphor means that those who would like to live well have to make a decision that slims down options.
Take for example relationships. Let us name a couple: Rafael and Caroline. The beginning of a relationship is marked by spontaneity and shared interests, usually as friends. They invite each other when they feel like going out to the movies and having coffee together. Movies and hanging out in cafés are their shared idea of an unwinding. They go out together with other friends on a Friday night or when classes are suspended. They had other friends whom they go out with. Caroline had a crush on Brian; a date with Gabby here and there. No commitments. And Rafael had a thing for Cathy; a date with Andrea.
As Rafael and Caroline fall in love with each other, their movie and coffee routine becomes a choice. As an official couple, they now willfully choose to go to movies and coffee, not just because they like it, but because it is their weekly expression of their commitment. It is not anymore a matter of spontaneity or when they feel like it or the circumstances that surrounds them (Friday night, no classes!). They now choose to be together. They place Brian, Gabby, Cathy and Andrea out of their world. Even when there is work to do; when one is not feeling well; when one has to travel from Alabang to Quezon City (around 40 kms), their date stays. No matter the circumstances — imprisonment as Jeremiah in the first reading, rain or shine, in sickness and in health — their date is not determined by them.
Our freedom narrows down options to only one. Like a choose-the-best-answer in a multiply choice exam. The narrower the choices, the closer you are to the right answer. This is passing through the narrow gate. And by choosing they find the person who completes them. And when they find the right person in marriage, they find their happiness. Emotional and Spiritual maturation comes when we are able to make just one choice for eternity. For lovers, they call it forever.
When we are able to fix our gaze on Jesus and we are able to choose that which leads to Him, then we become committed to Christ. We reach our full maturity. Our freedom is meant to limit our choices; it should enable us to choose what is eternal, what is forever. And the choice boils down to only one. We cannot serve two masters at the same time.
Think about this: a person who cannot decide, we call underdeveloped. Indecision leads to destruction as the Gospel of Matthew said. A person who can decide and lives through it, we call mature. We become human when we are able to choose. We become God’s children, when are able to choose eternity. And who is eternal? God.