23 June 2009. Tuesday of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time
Gen 13, 2, 5-18; Psalm 15; Matthew 7, 12-14
Nomads such as Abraham and Lot searched for pastures for their flock. The larger a flock got, the more arguments arose among the herdsmen and their owners. Here, Abraham and Lot decided to separate ways to stop conflicts in the future. Abraham, though older, deferred the first choice to Lot, who was younger. In the past, the older one got the first choice. Of course, Lot wanted the Jordan Plain where the land looked greener. He then settled near Sodom. Abraham, on the other hand, settled near the terebinth of Mamre (terebiths are trees with red flowers and fruits). The Lord then promised Abraham of innumerable descendants and allowed him to walk the “breath and length” of the land as a symbolic act of taking possession of what was not his, but God’s.
In the Gospel, Jesus talks about choices. First, about the gifts we have. Will you throw your pearls before swine? Meaning: Will you waste your talents carelessly or put them to good use? Second, about who we all are. Having the same dignity as others, will you do to them what you want them to do to you? This is the golden rule. Hillel, the Jewish teacher, also said that same thing in the negative: What you do not like, do not do to your neighbor.
Finally, about our life’s vocations discovered by entering the narrow gate and following the constricted road. Allow me to expound on this. Vocation is literally a calling. It does not necessarily mean to a religious ministry. In religious terms, the calling is from God. Someone calls and naturally, the one being called responds. When we are invited, we have to make choices: to respond or to be undecisive.
Our choices individuate and defines us. We discover who we are, what we are, where we’re going, what gives us meaning primarily by choosing. By failing to choose, our personhood becomes shapeless and amorphous. But people who made choices slowly acquire a solid identity. Their choices helps them understand who they are and at the same time, their understanding of themselves make them choose paths that are complimentary to their person. Choosing is entering the narrow gate. Freedom is operative when we choose among many options; the result of which is to further limit our options. In a multiple choice exam, we have to tick the right answer (eg. C). The act of choosing C is the act of freedom. The limitation is this: we put all of our hope for the correct answer in C alone (thus, not A, B or D). Our choosing narrows down the options. In the end then, when we become more mature, our future acquires shape. We eventually discover the type of life we want. Our lifestyle according to the kind of life we live, limits the options to only a few. Even if we would like to have the whole cake, we can’t. People who are married will have privileges and responsibilities that are not obligatory or proper to those who are single. The same way with those in religious life.
Likewise, the Gospel passage asks us to make a choice: for or against God. The road that is wide have been taken by those who are not serious in committing to God. They live constantly in a state of indecision. They are voluntarily afflicted by indetermination. They say, “I don’t want to be determined by any one else” and so they live life that is constantly afloat. Like nomads, they do not settle. And while being that way, they stay conflicted. They want to do what they like, wasting their life on any thing that catches their fancy, determined by their desires, throwing their pearls to swine. They want their lives to be determined by a what not by a who. Many take this road. But note: when Abraham and Lot made a choice, they ‘settled’. St. Thomas Aquinas said, “The things that we love tell us what we are.”
But the road to eternal life is narrow and constricted. To be determined by one’s family or by a significant other is a willful choice. To voluntarily choose to live a celibate life as an act of total availability to the people God wills us to serve narrows down our choices. But these are the choices of the few. The few who are sure of who and what they are. The few whose life’s direction is clear. The few who found meaning and joy in their lives, because they found their true vocation. Let me end with a quote from Fr. Jett Villarin SJ:
“Don’t worry, because your vocation, your personal calling is the intersection of your heart’s deepest happiness and the world’s deepest need. What God wants you to do is what makes your heart and that deepest most Christ-present part of you happy, and where that meets with what the world needs most.”