1 September 2010 Wednesday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time
1 Corinthians 3, 1-9; Psalm 33; Luke 4, 38-44
It is a common occurrence that parishioners are divided according to their favorite priests. A group prefers Fr. X because he says great homilies and makes them laugh. Another favors Fr. Y because he spends time with them, especially in the most crucial moments of their lives. Another group would rather focus on their organization, proud that they are not like the fans of Fr. X or Y.
In the internal life in a parish, there are often turf wars between the priests assigned there. They are aggravated by the gossip emanating from these groups. Sometimes the tension is not apparent to walk-ins. However, it is blatant to those who are more involved in the parish. Somehow you can decipher hidden meanings or underlying issues if you know how to read between the lines.
This situation is not alien to the religious sector. You can find this in the offices and halls of government. With nepotism, the ‘padrino’ system in the Philippines, one has to have a powerful backer or supporter to retain one’s job. The rationale behind this culture is survival if not a matter of loyalty.
You can also see this culture in the private sector. Business ties will demand faithfulness to one group, and therefore to have relations with a competitor is imprudent. You either lose your present job, or the other side might not trust you since you are easily swayed.
This is the point of the first reading. St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians addresses this issue. The Corinthians were very gifted; and proud of them. But there were cliques among them. One group identified themselves as followers of Paul. Others prefer the eloquence of Apollos while another group loves a certain Cephas (not St. Peter). In addition, there was a group who did not take sides, but called themselves, simply disciples of Christ. Very much like the parish of Frs. X and Y.
Paul reminds the Corinthians that the source of all their gifts is God. We are all His co-workers, and the field is ourselves. We are personally responsible for our formation, as well as responsible for those outside of our worlds. And thus the vineyard of the Lord is much much wider than our own small little nooks. It stretches out, and therefore there is always a place for each one of us.
No need for a turf war, because there are many fields to cover. No need to compete, because there are other parts in the whole kingdom that needs another one. Those who compete in this manner lives in a narrow and tight world.
The same thing with Jesus. The source of His energy is God and so He goes up to the mountain to pray. It is there that He gets His strength and energy. So that when the time comes, He will be able to use His abilities to preach the Good News, cure the sick, and exorcise demons. Including Peter’s mother-in-law.
When you find yourself in a competitive world, think again: there is always a place for you in the Kingdom of God. The harvest is plenty and the vineyard of the Lord is wide. You can always find a vacant lot to work on.
Warning though: once you’re at it, you’ll discover that what you thought was a small lot is actually is a huge golden field.