30 January 2008 Wednesday of the 3rd Week in Ordinary Time
2 Samuel 7 A Common Language
The first reading speaks about Yahweh’s request for a house on which the ark of the covenant will rest. A house can also mean a family, a group of people living together and functioning as a single household, or all the people who descend from a common ancestor. The house of David means from the line or stock of David; and this line is what the Lord wanted to build. Thus, a group of people is a house if they are related to each other, by birth, marriage, adoption or traces their roots to a common ancestor. In addition, the Gospel tells us about parables, a literary device which Jesus widely used in his preaching. Let me do some connections.
First, people are brought together by the truth. Jesus gathered people because he was frank about the hypocrisy of people. He gave assuring words to those who were sick. He used parables, vivid images from daily life, to illustrate the deeper meaning of reality. Because of Jesus’ honesty and truthfulness in his words, he was able to bring people together. The apostles had their parrhesia, their radical truthfulness in their teaching.
The same thing with life. When a parent talks to his children about his cancer, members of the household becomes closer as they share the pains of the cancer victim. A special child in the family unites them because each share the truth about their kin. When a person finally comes out of the closet, his friends would tend to sympathize with him — rather than walk away as feared. When we ask for forgiveness by giving an account of our hearts, our vulnerability makes it easier for the other to grant pardon. When we are able to articulate and express the aspirations and dreams of many people, our language becomes alive and a point of unity. Truth builds a house.
Second, the philosopher Wittgenstein said, “to imagine a language is to imagine a form of life.” People who belong to a house has a language of their own. There is common life where there is a language. Let me explain. If you’re from UP, you have a common vocabulary taken from a shared experience. If you say SC in UP, it will mean the shopping center. In other universities, SC means student council. If you say AS in UP, it means Palma Hall; in other schools, it means Arts and Sciences. But only in UP, can you meet the IKOT-TOKI, meaning jeepney routes: IKOT (around UP), TOKI means the opposite direction (notice the spelling!). Those who have lived together for many years like married couples, develop their own way of speaking and a ‘dialect’ that carries with it their common jokes, experiences, and memories. The gay community in the Philippines develop a lingo where common expressions like chaka and tsika came from.
The same thing in faith. The readings of the mass is the memory of our ancestors; we share the same stories and experiences not just with the present community, but with the first Christian communities, or further back, the Jewish community. It is the common language that unites us. When Jesus used parables, the imagery was from ordinary life during His time. The sower in the Gospel today or the image of the sheep and the shepherd were easily understood because, as Wittgenstein said, it was part of their life. In order to connect with our common ancestors, we should learn the language. So that wherever we are, when we meet fellow Christians we can talk like friends and family.
There is reason then to listen to the Word of God at mass, than just doze off to sleep.