26 October 2007. Friday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time
Romans 7, 18-25; Psalm 119; Luke 12, 54-59: Stubbornness
We can identify with Paul’s anguish when he laments that he does not do the good that he wants, but he does the evil that he does not want. This seem too familiar to many of us. We are able to judge what is right and what is wrong. We know when our decisions are correct and when it is erroneous. We actually feel it: we feel at peace when it is right or we feel disturbed when it is wrong. But still we do it. We always say, masarap ang bawal. We like what is prohibited. For example, when our parents forbid us from drinking alcoholic beverages, we would sneak and try them either alone but usually with our group of friends. Or we know that cheating is wrong, but we still do it because we are afraid to fail the exams. Anything prohibited has some seductive quality to us.
Thus, we are morally accountable for the wrong things that we do because we know it is wrong. The Gospel tells us that the problem does not lie on our ignorance. We can predict the weather and more accurately today: you can Google weather forecasts and you can view incoming typhoons via satellite. Information is not anymore a problem since the cyberage. We can judge what is right.
The problem I guess is in our stubbornness. Matigas ang ating mga ulo. We refuse to learn. The criteria of our judgment is what we want, what we like, what is beneficial to us: not what is right. And we have the tendency to justify our actions. We resist external influences because we prefer our own way. We want to make up our minds and follow our own instincts. We are slow to respond to external correcting measures and so we remain having behavior that is inappropriate at times. When we are stubborn, our self-image is self-contained, that means we would like to function on our own, without regard for others or the environment. We do not want to consult and therefore rarely seek advice from others especially in making decisions. Thus, as Jesus said, we rarely seek knowledge about our situation so that we can make an informed decision — and follow a formed and well informed conscience. Thus many of our decisions are irrational, emotional, arbitrary and inflexible. In other words, when we are stubborn we are afraid of new situations. We are afraid to dare new ways of doing things.
The solution is a great trust in the word of God and welcome some inconveniences. Following what is right challenges our comfort zones. As the responsorial psalm teaches us, the precepts of the Lord is always right. When we follow it, it will always be beneficial to us. We will not die following it, in fact, we become better and authentic human beings. The key to combat stubbornness is flexibility. St. Ignatius called it a virtue. There are many times when we have to flow gracefully with the circumstances like adapting to the many phases of life like old age or changes in structure when an old organization have to reformat themselves in the post modern world. We must not spend all our energies in resisting change. It is good to remember the huge acacia trees during typhoons: often they break if they do not bend with the wind.
Note: 1) I got a note from a parishioner in UP where I delivered this homily. She said, as “strong as the molave” (not the acacia, and help: I haven’t seen a molave or maybe I have but didn’t know it was a molave tree. Is there a molave in the Molave Dormitory in UP?), and as “pliable as a bamboo.” 2) The acacia trees in the picture line the main road of the Ateneo.