By LEVI VILORIA ALBANIA
United Methodist Church
The current pandemic situation presents an emerging new normal for everyone. Church doors have relatively been closed recently but worship and service, our pagsamba at pakikibaka, pagpupuri at pakikipagkapwa, ang pagsamo at pakikisalamuha, Sa pangalan Niya… (Granada, 1989) continue. It is also an opportunity to reflect and examine ourselves and ask what kind of Christian are we? And, what kind of Christians do we aspire to become?
The Bible readings for today, particularly the Gospel, speaks to us about obedience among other virtues and values. In this parable, Jesus admonished those who considered themselves righteous; while those considered sinners (e.g. tax collectors and prostituted women) were listening to John the Baptist, believed him, and were repenting.
This brings to mind a story some of us may be familiar with. It is about a little boy holding a Bible while praising God openly in a community park “Alleluia! Alleluia! God is good all the time!”. He exclaimed all these without worrying if anyone could hear him. A young man who had just finished his graduate studies in a prestigious university came walking by. Feeling very enlightened in the ways of truth, he asked the little boy what he was happy about.
The boy enthusiastically replied,
“Don’t you have any idea what God is able to do? I just read that God opened up the waves of the Red Sea and led the whole nation of Israel right through the middle.” The enlightened man laughed lightly, sat down next to the boy and began to try to open his eyes to the “realities” of the miracles of the Bible. “That can all be very easily explained. Modern scholarship has shown that the Red Sea in that area was only 10-inches deep at that time. It was no problem for the Israelites to wade across.” The boy was stunned. His eyes wandered from the man back to the Bible laying open in his lap. The man, content that he had enlightened a poor, naive young person to the finer points of scientific insight, turned to go. Scarcely had he taken two steps when the boy began to rejoice and praise louder than before. The man turned to ask the reason for this resumed jubilation. “Wow!” exclaimed the boy happily, “God is greater than I thought! Not only did He lead the whole nation of Israel through the Red Sea, He topped it off by drowning the whole Egyptian army in 10-inches of water!” (Assey, 2020).
Woah to that little boy’s faith, we must say. Indeed, it is easier for a child, a noob, to have complete trust and confidence in God and His Word than for the someone who has lived his/her entire life reading, questioning, and rationalizing its existence.
In verse 31b-32, Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.”
If we ask ourselves today, how quickly have some of us, “the enlightened”, judged others simply by their current predicament or actions, without really understanding their life history, their context, and realities?
Today’s Gospel has certain parallelisms with the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. In that narrative, Jesus said that it was the repentant tax collector (publican) who went home justified before God.
As a young kid, I was taught that God’s grace is with each of us throughout our lives. By grace God prepares us, justifies and restores us, and then continues to grow us into followers of Jesus Christ.
Jesus explicitly said that we are supposed to believe what John the Baptist has taught – that Jesus will bring God’s salvation, He will proclaim judgement, and give eternal life to those who believe and follow Jesus.
What can we do if unlike Jesus, we cannot walk on water, do not have the power to change water into wine, raise anyone from death, and feed the multitude? How do we express our love for Him and keep His commandments? It is written everywhere in the Bible and still much relevant today. Love those who He loves: the poor, hungry, homeless, prisoners, persecuted, lonely, and hopeless. Have preferential option for the marginalized, disadvantaged, disenfranchised, isolated, and excluded. Today, more than ever, we can practice we have always been professing!
We can start by doing acts of compassion and justice and be God’s work of mercy today!
Balik-Tanaw is a group blog of Promotion of Church People’s Response. The Lectionary Gospel reflection is an invitation for meditation, contemplation, and action. As we nurture our faith by committing ourselves to journey with the people, we also wish to nourish the perspective coming from the point of view of hope and struggle of the people. It is our constant longing that even as crisis intensifies, the faithful will continue to strengthen their commitment to love God and our neighbor by being one with the people in their dreams and aspirations. The Title of the Lectionary Reflection would be Balik –Tanaw , isang PAGNINILAY . It is about looking back (balik) or revisiting the narratives and stories from the Biblical text and seeing ,reading, and reflecting on these with the current context (tanaw).