Weekday Reflection: Friday of the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B)
(Gn 46:1-7, 28-30 / Mt 10:16-23)
Way back when I was a theology student at San Carlos Seminary, I would always remember the many courses on Homiletics that we would have, practically every semester of the four years of theology! Somehow, we were honed and trained in all aspects of preparing homilies, and in fairness, a good number of the institution's graduates ended up as exemplary preachers behind the pulpit.
Preparation was almost everything: lectio divina; meditation on the readings; another set of readings but now their corresponding commentaries in order to accomplish a reasonable exigesis of the texts at hand; correlating the chosen theme on which one will focus, with events of everyday life in order to contextualize God's message for the hearers of today; finding suitable illustrations to drive the point more clearly--and more interestingly; then, if one be strict about procedures, to write down the whole homily to thresh out the ideas more clearly and develop them more coherently; and finally, prepare an outline based on the written homily which the preacher shall carry to the pulpit as an aid to remember all points that need to be raised during its delivery while at mass.
I say, preparation was almost everything. Almost--because everything I've mentioned earlier were simply icing on a cake, glittering wrappers on a gift. The core, the important thing, is still left untouched: that in the end, as preachers, we are simply the mouthpiece of God.
The Gospel reading of today lay it out in no unclear terms:
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Both the manner (how) and the content (what) of what we say shall come from the Spirit of the Father at work within us.
Jesus had no intention to watering down the big demands of discipleship. It will be hard--and even dangerous!
Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves
Yet, he will never leave us. He will be with us in all these, just like what Yahweh said to Jacob in the first reading of today. Both in Jacob's journey to Egypt, and his own return after Joseph, his son, closed his eyes, God will always be with him. God will journey with him. He will be a true Emmanuel--God is with us. More profoundly, it's not simply that God is with us. Rather, in all journeys and stages of life, what Jesus is telling us is that God will always be in us!
God will not just be journeying before us, or with us, but in us!
We shall become the mouthpiece of God because God's Spirit is within ourselves, The Spirit of the Father will speak through us.
A few days ago, I stumbled upon an interesting new book at the St. Justin Library of St. Vincent School of Theology in Quezon City where I teach. It's a book by Gerald May, MD, entitled The Dark Night of the Soul (2004). Since high school, I already had a fascination with the Carmelite mystic St. John of the Cross. The book by May, a psychiatrist and a Methodist, is supposed to offer a corrective reading of the "Dark Night" (noche obscura) in John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila in view of some current misunderstandings. Foremost of these misunderstandings would be to understand the Dark Night as a life-denying gloomy journey to holiness of life.
One of the important insights I got from that book was the author's insistence that in both mystics' spiritual theology, there really is no room for a dualism, read: "God and me." A closer reading of both mystics' thought on the relationship between God and human is more in the phrase of: "God who is in me, and I who am in God." The relationship between God and human is one of co-penetration, and not simply a juxtaposition of two discrete entities.
This truth is a common affirmation among all mystics, not just Christians, but in the broad spectrum of world religions. Indeed, in the spirit of St. Augustine, God is closer to oneself than the self is to itself. God is at the core of our being. That is why the Spirit of the Father can speak through us, because God is ultimately in us.
And they who recognize this truth first, are the mystics themselves.
No wonder that in the cacophony of opinions, mystics are lone voices. They are genuine prophets, for what they speak is ultimately not theirs, but the Spirit of the Father, speaking, uttering, preaching, proclaiming through them.
Mystics. Prophets. Mouthpieces of God.