11 September 2009. Friday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time
1 Tim 1, 1-14; Psalm 16; Luke 6, 39-42

My particular interest in marine life makes me a “beach person” --- I would rather be next to a body of water than trek the highest heights. One night, there was a heavy downpour and the wind lashed on the beach. It was a little scary when my imagination began to work on tsunamis like that in Aceh, north of Indonesia in 2004. But when the wind subsided the next day, I decided to walk on the shore to see the damage. Numerous starfishes were thrown ashore and were kept stranded on the beach. They would die once the sun dried them up. A little boy was hurling starfishes back to the water. I told him that he cannot save all of them. But the boy said, “At least I was able to help some.” He did made a difference to every single starfish he threw back to the sea.

The boy’s compassion for the starfishes stranded and helpless on the shore is what Jesus invites us to do and to be. He calls us to be compassionate, just as the Father is merciful and loving. The Gospel tells us what it means to have compassion. We are not to judge or condemn; but we are to forgive offenses and to give without counting the cost, as God Himself has done. And God will repay more than what we have given out from our generosity. Judging others is further emphasized when the Lord said that before we are able to see the splinter in other people’s eyes, we should take notice of the larger beam stuck in our eyes. The hypocrite, blinded by his own faults, is interested only to expose another person’s weakness. The call for compassion is what we call fraternal correction: we do it out of our concern and love. Fraternal correction is generated by love. Being judgmental is generated by false righteousness (and some people believe that they are always right).

The evangelist Luke uses the tenet, The blind leading the blind, to warn the people of false prophets or teachers who claim that they are at the Lord’s side. True disciples will always remain faithful to their Master. They will not change their teacher’s instructions. They will stick to them by all means. Thus, when Jesus calls for compassion; they will try with all of their life and energy to follow Him in obedience. They will not say, “there are too many people who need help, and I am just a student and I don’t have much to give.” These are all excuses given by the invited guests at the wedding feast. There is always a reason for the things we do not want to do.

The disciple will work within his means to help nevertheless; he will continue to throw starfishes into the sea and make a difference to the lives even if they are just a few. We become apathetic to what is happening in our country because we have been overwhelmed by rampant graft and corruption. Overwhelmed, we have become resigned to it. By doing so, we have tolerated this system that it has become our culture.

However, we forget the process of change begins in incremental steps. Like broken people, we have to pick up the pieces and gather them again. Every single step in building the nation is like picking one starfish at a time and throwing it back into the sea. This I believe is what we do when we participate in training student leaders. We teach them to hope in the midst of helplessness. We assist them so that they are able to acquire the skills they need to lead. We empower the young one at a time and give them opportunities hard to come along without some help. When Jose Rizal said that the youth is the hope of our nation, we too have to contribute to make it happen.

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