24 November 2010 Memorial of Sts. Andrew Dung-lac and companions
Rev 15: 1-4; Psalm 98; Luke 21: 12-19
Being good is counter-cultural. Consider the following. In a corrupt government system, bribes are acceptable. A family member who needs documents had to wait for months to get it, unless one spares a few bucks for the employee. A friend whose moral values are laudable gets ridiculed when he does not succumb to the system. A student can only be part of a fraternity only after a violent initiation accepted by all as ‘part of tradition.’ In many of these schools, the members are future lawyers meant to protect citizens from death-threatening situations. Finally, you are cool if your life-style revolves not on faith, but the values of commercialism.
The Gospel today is prophetic. The Lord does not sugar-coat what it will demand of us who follow Him. The cross will always be a constant companion. St. Francis of Assisi has accepted the reality of persecution in doing good by calling it, “Sister Death” (Laudes creaturarum).
Family members will not spare us from their harsh words. Often, they encourage us to follow suit, with the usual tempting words, “Anyway, you can always confess it” or “It will just be this moment.” Following one’s vocation especially the religious life entails great resentment from others. Believe me, in many vocation stories I heard, the constant tagline is this: “I went against the will of my family and friends.” Members expect you to help the family; and often, as one gets involve in ministries, helping others becomes a reality than actually lending a hand for one’s kin.
As I continue to blog, there are ‘haters’ who leave nasty comments. Yes, here in this blog. I do not know them. They constantly use the coward “Anonymous” as identity; there is no way to retaliate. I receive some hate words. Sometimes they bent out on me their frustrations and anger towards someone, the Church, and the world. But it is part and parcel of doing this ministry — and thank God, these remarks when moderated can go directly to the trash where they belong, sparing you from the emotional upheaval you don’t deserve.
The readings today inspire us to continue the good we do. Of course, we do not deny that doing good is also a struggle; realizing that within ourselves lies the capacity to do evil. And that is why, with the culture that affirms way-ward behavior, it is easy to succumb to the dark side.
The readings on the other hand assure us with two things: First, the Gospel tells us that with our perseverance, not a single strand of hair will be destroyed. The Lord will spare us from destruction. It is true: when we succumb to evil, we eventually ruin our lives, our relationships, and the world around us. If we do what is good, we find ourselves whole, our relationships flourish, and the world around us becomes greener and liveable. We also gain more people who care for us. Our goodness attracts the people who are also struggling to be better.
Second, the first reading from Revelations tells us that within our struggles, we are also graced with experiences of God. Like gasoline that fuels our fires. We become more sensitive to the presence of God. We feel Him in our experiences of friendship. We encounter His visitation in inspirations, like artistic ruptures; in the beauty of nature; in forgiveness and childbirth.
Like drugs, doing something that eventually destroys us becomes addictive. The opposite is also true: doing what is good can be intoxicating. There are people who experience wholeness and meaning that everything else becomes trivial. No persecution is too harsh in relation to the love of God.