5 September 2010 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 9, 13-18; Psalm 90; Phil 9-10,12-17; Luke 14, 25-33
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 a sigurista (someone who wants guaranteed success); 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 dead-set on it.
Many of us plunge into many things before thinking or planning. As our parents and teachers say, pag-isipan mo muna (Think it out first). This is true. In school, many student leaders embark on a huge project at the beginning of the year, without calculating its necessary cost on themselves and their studies, and end up photo-finished, half-done or partially successful.
When we were young, we dreamt of big things for ourselves. However, we lacked the proper and necessary assessment of resources that those dreams remained mere dreams until the present.
In committed relationships, many entered into serious relationships such as marriage without necessary preparations. The relationship either went through rough roads or ended 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 for the rest of our lives?
Second, this applies to discipleship. Thus, one should not attempt a plan without having sufficient resources to complete it. We will need to put everything into that goal in order to complete the project. Likewise, the disciple should also be 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, and take the risk. We do not want to find ourselves in the ridiculous position of someone who has begun something and is unable to finish it. Is it possible to focus ourselves on the purpose we wish to serve like a plane that is focused on its destination?
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 as parents, researchers, educators, artists, or heads of state. Serving life and God may require necessary preparations and faithfulness to a purpose that lasts over a lifetime. It is less a work of the ego than a choice of the soul.