Setting our Eyes on the Ideal

October 8, 2006

Reflection: 27th Sunday in OT

We find ourselves living in a time where societies and communities become fragmented, where institutions become divided, where relationships are broken up. We say that the family is the basic unit of a society, and within that basic unit, there we find the paradoxical unity of husband and wife; two persons united in matrimony, united in life, and united in their aspirations for their children. However, nowadays, we are noticing certain trends in thinking that break up the very core, the very identity of what we take as the basic unit of society. There is the growing phenomenon of single-parenthood; the phenomenon of co-habitation especially among the young adults; the dwindling population of the younger generation; the so-called “gay rights movement” that demand for equal opportunity in the society, not just in the work place, but also in the institution of married life. And what’s going to be next? Gay couples seeking adoption of children to somehow realize in their partnership the least semblance of a family.

The gospel and the first reading point directly to the issue of marriage and divorce, a thorny issue both at the time of Jesus and even in our times. Decisions have been made, compromises have been upheld, and sometimes made standard. In effect, the face of the reality of married life has been a sea of change, yet despite the makeovers to please a certain segment of the society, if not conform to prevailing ideologies, the ideals remain the same. This is the point of Jesus’ discourse. The Pharisees were intent to pit the teachings of Jesus against the prescriptions handed down by Moses. They raised a prickly question, and Christ responded. Not to contradictthe Mosaic prescription, but to point to the Pharisees where their eyes should be gazing: the ideal to which rules and codes of conduct are mere humble stewards that accomplish and err at the same time.

We no longer live in a society where the teachings of the Church hold certain predominance, particularly those that fall short of the immediate concerns of religion. Despite this shortfall, one can still aim at what is morally good, if not religiously good. We need to be conscious of the law of gradation. The prescription of divorce by Moses was good considering the circumstances of the people themselves: it was because of their “hardness of heart” that such a prescription was made. That was a good solution, perhaps even the best considering the characters of the persons involved during that time. However, such a prescription remains a servant to the ideal to which we need to set our eyes on. The Pharisees erred not because they were obedient to the precepts of Moses. Being leaders of their religion, their error was the failure to point to people, to lay bare to the people the ideals which are God’s ordinances. They have fallen into the pitfall of lazy contentment, the entropy of idealism, the sedimentation of aspirations. Christ wasn’t happy with the realities that confronted him during his time, nor should we be content with the compromises of own time. Following Christ, we need to lay bare to other people the divine destiny that God has personally shaped for each of us; we need point to them the ideals that nudge us continuously lest we fall into the lethargy of contentment. We have to help others set their eyes on the ideals, at least from time to time.

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