Knowing One's Resources

8 November 2006: Wednesday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time

Luke 14, 25-33: The Tower Builder and the King Going to War

The Gospel today holds with it two stories: the Tower Builder and the King going to war. In itself, these two parables convey a clear meaning: Before undertaking an important project, a person must consider whether he has sufficient resources to carry it out successfully; otherwise he should abandon the project.

First, this applies to life. It is important not to miss the word, necessary. The tower builder and the king both take the necessary steps in order to ensure success. Gawin ang lahat na makakaya. We are therefore not talking about the person who is sigurista; and does not move or dare unless he or she is very sure of success. No, the tower builder and the king do not know the outcome, but they have the graphic earnestness to do all they can in order to finish their plan; they are not paralyzed by the fear of the unknown, but face the challenge headlong and deadset.

Many of us plunge into many things before thinking or planning. As our parents and teachers say, pag-isipan mo muna. This is true. In school, many student leaders embark on a huge, bonggacious project at the beginning of the year, without calculating its necessary cost on themselves and their studies, and end up half-done or partially successful. Many of us when we were young dreamt of big things for ourselves, but because of the lack of proper and necessary assessment of resources, those dreams remained until now just mere dreams. Many have entered into serious relationships such as marriage without necessary preparations. The relationship either goes through rough roads or ends in estrangement, break-ups, and separation. In the marriage ceremony, the minister says that “marriage is not to be entered upon lightly or unadvisedly, but thoughtfully, reverently, and in the fear of God.” Included in the necessary preparation is our emotional and psychological state: are we emotionally ready to commit ourselves to another person?

Second, this applies to discipleship. Thus, just as one should not attempt a plan without having sufficient resources to complete it, but will need to put in everything into it in order to complete the project, so too should the disciple be ever and continually ready to give up what he has in order to follow Jesus. This tells us what we should do before we commit ourselves to God: we need to reflect on our lives whether we are indeed willing to take everything it demands of us. And for most of us who have committed ourselves, we must adopt all necessary measures, be ready to give up everything, rather than back out and find ourselves in the ridiculous position of one who has begun something and is unable to finish it. Might it be possible to focus ourselves on the purpose we wish to serve like a plane that is focused on its destination?

It is like Moses and the Promised Land. We know that Moses never made it to the Promised Land. Though he was able to see it, he died before his people marched into it through the leadership of Joshua. Before I always saw Moses plight as a very sad story of a great leader. You see, I have committed myself to having good grades and acquiring rewards that my parents would be proud of. I worked very, very hard for the things I would like to have and to achieve. I wondered why Moses, after all his hard work, only got to see the Promised Land. All the Israelites got their dream. It was only after I was assigned back to Manila that I realized that Moses did get his dream. You see, when I was sent to Cagayan de Oro, I dreamt of putting up a play where students are able to hone their talents and their skills. Just as I had put up my first school play, I was assigned back here. I did not realized that what I asked of God is this: that I would see my students hone their talents, that they acquire a confidence and appreciation of God’s gifts to them, and that they will be able to share it with others. God did answer my prayers. It was just that I would not be able to put up another play. Moses was a leader, and a leader always had a different dream from the others. Moses’ dream was to see his people free from slavery. Moses saw it happen; I saw my dream happen.

Serving anything worthwhile is a commitment to a direction over time and may require us to relinquish many moment-to-moment attachments, to let go of pride, approval, recognition, or even success. This is true whether we be parents, researchers, educators, artists, or heads of state. Serving life and God may require necessary preparations and faithfulness to purpose that lasts over a lifetime. It is less a work of the ego than a choice of the soul.

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