Our Radical Faith

20 January 2009. Tuesday of the 2nd Week in Ordinary Time
Hebrew 6, 10-20; Psalm 111; Mark 2, 18-22 (Monday) & 23-28 (Today)

There are many times when conflict situations arise in every Christian’s life. In fact, in many ways, the Gospel’s true meaning can be potent, jarring, shocking and threatening to our set ways of living. Indeed, the call of the Gospel is radical because Jesus challenged the system acquiring the ire of the many leaders of His time. In Mark’s Gospel, we have seen the conflict with the Pharisees over his dealing with the paralytic (about the forgiveness of sins), with His choice of Levi or Matthew for a disciple (about the choice of a sinner), with His eating habits (against the lifestyle of the Pharisees), and now, with the Sabbath (about the law made for people).

To follow Jesus means a shift of paradigms; a re-shaping of our mindsets; a destruction of our many prejudices; a change of heart. New wine into new wine skins. To take Jesus seriously, and thus, to take our faith earnestly requires a certain violence: a transition is always an experience of death. The experience is always painful and disorienting, the wound is often acute and severe. That is why if we have to move on, it would be better to make a clean cut, than to do it slowly as torture. It cannot be that new or young wine (called technically, a must) is placed on old wineskins or else, the old wineskins, which have lost its flexibility, will not be able to hold the new wine. In making wine, we need yeast, a single cell organism. Yeast causes fermentation, a process that converts the sugar in the fruit to alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide escapes into the air and what is left is wine. The wineskin should be flexible and expandable to carry the escaping air.

Let me give you an example when we have to shift paradigms: The challenge to be inclusive than exclusive. Exclusivity is a natural tendency for social groups and organizations. We want to belong to a solid group of friends apart from the general public. Every association claims an autonomous government, a set of goals, a manner of proceeding and for many, a lifestyle. It is what sets them apart.

But there are times when exclusively becomes discriminating and selfish. I have personally experienced this attitude among choirs. It is often a challenge in parishes or universities to organize a grand choir (meaning, having all choirs participate in one particular celebration). They could not sing with other choirs, because they want their voices heard only. They could not play with other musicians because they want their particular instrument dominating the whole sound. I know of a particular choir who does not practice diligently, but they still feel entitled asserting that the mass, where they sing, is theirs. This to me is contrary to Gospel values and even to the Church’s teaching on Liturgy and Music. For Jesus, in the Gospel today, who asserted the value of charity over the law of the Sabbath, this attitude is contrary to what He taught. Choirs such as these need a 360-degree overhaul in values. Charity is an attitude of inclusion. It is welcoming another who also wants to serve just as Jesus welcomed Levi into His circle. And most of all, the mass is not owned or controlled by a group of people, it is a communitarian celebration. As said in the letter to the Hebrews, the priest, lectors, servers, choirs, eucharistic ministers, greeters make up the ministry, meaning, the people who are at the service of the community.

Allow me another example. When I was in UP, I experienced the opposite. Two students from the College of Music volunteered to play at the Chaplaincy’s mass on Sundays at 11 AM. After them, followed other musicians who played the violins, violas, cellos, and flutes. Many of them also have academic demands. They get paid as part of their professional fee. Some devote their free time to practice. But every time a musician joins, one never hears a complaint, but a welcoming attitude. And in addition, they volunteered to arrange our mass songs for free which takes a lot of time apart from their work and their study (a choral and a musical arrangement for one song is around Php 20,000). This group of musicians is now known as Musica Chiesa (Church Music in English). Moreover, when a choir was assigned in the 11:00 AM mass, they invited other members of other choirs to join them whenever they were present. I saw members of UP-CLC, UPSCA, ICTUS, CYA or YFC happy when other members sing with them. Why is it that UP, whose reputation as a university without faith, is more Catholic than those from Catholic institutions or churches?

When Galileo said that it was the earth who revolved around the sun, contrary to the popular Copernican view that the earth was the center, he got himself excommunicated. It took years before we realized that he was right.

Sometimes we are Pharisaic. Remember, it was the Pharisees who got Jesus killed. And if you are one of those who challenge the system, be prepared. Crucifixion is not a far possibility.

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