The Power of Self-Determination

9 September 2007 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 9, 13-18, Luke 14, 25-33 The Tower Builder

Note: Sorry everyone. I have been out of town. I went home to Bicol, my hometown, for the Ordination of my fellow Bicolano Jesuits: Xavier Olin SJ and Nono Alfonso SJ. Pictures here. They are now deacons. So, blogging then continues.

The Gospel today is very practical. It tells us why planning is very important in our lives. We see the tower builder or the present-day engineer calculating the cost of the project. We also see the king who looks into the strengths and the number of troops in his army before going to battle.

There is a toxic notion of God that we have: that God controls our lives like a puppet master. Pre-destination means that whatever we do, we cannot determine our future. God plans it. You get to see it when people say in the event of a misfortune, “Don’t worry God maybe has a plan.” Or, when at a break-up in a relationship, we tell our friend, “Maybe it was for the better.” Or at the wake, for the lack of things to say, we tell them, “God must have a reason for this to happen.” Or, when we say, “God must want me to feel this way for a reason. There is something I still need to learn.” If we say these things, we mean that God controls the events in our personal history, and we renounce our accountability for our own lives. In other words, we become less responsible for our lives.

But God indeed has a plan for us. He desires that all creation be drawn to the reign of God. Ephesians 1, 10 says that Jesus gathers up all things in him, things in heaven and earth. Thus, God does not manipulate events in order to achieve his plan, or else it would violate our will and freedom. We can see that in parents who has one plan and desire: mapabuti ang kanilang anak. Kahit ano pa man ang gusto niya, basta masaya ang kanyang anak. Wala yan sa pagiging doktor, pag-abroad, atpb.

However, God does not become idle. The first reading tells us that He sends the Holy Spirit who becomes the active and driving force in the fulfillment of our personal plans. Nonetheless, the effort of the Spirit can be resisted as when we become lazy or rejected as when we do evil by free human beings.

So concretely, how do we live the Sunday readings today. When we plan for our lives, we participate in God’s spirit, na malagay tayo sa mabuti, so that we are able to straighten the paths of our individual, specific lives. We are therefore responsible for our lives, and the choices we make is our exercise to determine ourselves. We can be good doctors or bad doctors. We can be good lawyers or bad lawyers (or bad would-be lawyers as those who participated in Chris’ hazing and death). It is the Spirit who draws us to choose doing the good in a specific manner depending on what we want in our lives.

There is a common tenet however: we cannot give what we do not have. When we plan, we assess our resources as the king assessing his army. We understand the options available to us. We get all the information we need. Studying therefore is a preparation. It is part of the planning stage. We will be able to serve others, according to the resources we have.

What then is the benefit in planning our lives? Planning ahead means less emotional and financial stress for you and your family or the people who would be affected by your decisions. The rapid changes in our environment and the complexities of our work and lives all the more need strategies and contingency plans for our future. Para hindi tayo magkakalat. We would not be scatter-brains. That way we do two things: we exercise our freedom, and we are able to do the ultimate desire of God. So that we would be like Him. We are God’s children after all.

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