Weekday Reflection: Saturday of the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B)
Memorial of St. Benedict, abbot
(Gn 49:29-32; 50:15-26 / Mt 10:24-33)
"Do not be afraid!" Three times the Gospel reading of today repeats the same message, that we, Christ's disciples, should not be afraid.
In a world filed with uncertainties due to climatic events, war between nations, rampant poverty and even cultural clashes, the message of Jesus still echoes: do not be afraid. In a world where a number of people are filled with anxiety and burdened with stress in their day-to-day lives to earn a decent living, to raise a good family, to maintain good rapport with friends and neighbors, the message of Jesus still echoes: do not be afraid.
Why is there no room for fear? Amidst the gloomy darkness that hangs over us all? Because God is with us. Because God loves us and cares for us. Yes, we can never be his equal. We will always be under him.
No disciple is above his teacher,
no slave above his master.
It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher,
for the slave that he become like his master.
As disciples and slaves, we are always under the care and watchful gaze of our teacher and master--and we have a great and loving master of our lives! There is nothing in our life that he does not consider. Yes, even those things we just pass over in neglect, God considers them, counts them. Our life is not an added bonus ancillary to someone else's. The life of each one has an inherent worth.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
If the message of Jesus is "Do not be afraid", how can we live that in our lives? What first step do we need in order to live a life of fearless trust in God?
Here, we have a perfect counsel from St. Benedict of Nursia, whose feast we celebrate today: "Put Christ above all else!" We all have our own private concerns, both great and small. We are all engaged in doing things on a local and perhaps even global scale. In the ins and outs of life, we hardly have time for our self, much less for others. And yet, in all these, what is the wise counsel of St. Benedict? "Put Christ above all else."
Our life is a whole lump of building blocks. There are the slabs of family life. There are the nuggets of personal and career ambitions. There are the bricks of friendships and camaraderie. There are the cubes of financial and other material goals. Each block we put on top of another. They sometimes collapse and fall apart. We try to build our lives again with these building blocks, hoping to make a stable and permanent structure out of them. But in all these, the counsel of St. Benedict is "Put Christ above all else." To place God on top of all these building blocks so that all these concerns, both petty and immense ones, are under God's providential care.
Another way of saying it is to always see things from God's point of view. To put Christ above all else means that we see all these building blocks of our lives from the perspective of God--from the vantage point of God's plan for all of us. We need to always see (small) things from the (bigger) perspective of God's design for us in our lives. If we consume all our energy attending to the small, we leave nothing much such that we no longer see these things in their togetherness.
Yes, some people attend too much to every single tree. Their kind; their color; their shape; their age, etc. They exhaust themselves attending to each tree, that they have become lost in the woods. They could not see the forest anymore. They see the trees but not the forest.
Seeing the forest while attending to the trees is exactly what putting Christ above all means. We need to see all these from the standpoint of God. Yes, we can never completely see things the way God sees them. But the challenge of Jesus is to trust in God who sees everything.
Though we may never fully have God's point of view. What we are capable of us is trust fully in a God whose point of view is so much wider and bigger and grander than our own. If we are capable of that total trust in God, then the paralyzing fear of which the Gospel warns us will always be held at bay.
The first reading of today caps everything in the right perspective. When Jacob, the father of Joseph was already dead, his brothers were filled with fear for their lives thinking that Joseph might turn against them in hate because of what they did to him in his youth--disowned him and sold him as a slave to Eyptian merchants. In fear, they contrived even a lie, putting words into their dead father's mouth. Jacob, before dying, has said to have pleaded that Joseph's brothers be forgiven of their crimes. Joseph's brothers have good reasons to fear in view of their past misdeeds. They were filled with fear. A paralyzing fear that they would be left for dead because of the famine that plagued the entire region.
What was the response of Joseph?
“Have no fear. Can I take the place of God? Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people. Therefore have no fear. I will provide for you and for your children.”
Joseph had good reasons to get even with his brothers, now that their father Jacob is dead. Joseph was at liberty to take revenge, especially now that he is on the advantage.
Yet, he knew he was not in the place of God. Joseph saw his life, with all the downs (like being sold as a slave) and ups (like being raised as a viceroy of Egypt), as part of God's plan. Joseph did not give in to the petty concerns of revenge and retaliation (which are justly his), and instead put all things in the perspective of God's plan.
Yes, Joseph, when he was sold as a slave may have been filled with fear also. He feared for his own life and his future. But he learned to put his life in the care of a providential God. He trusted in the wise plans of God. He put God above all else.
And that decision made all the difference in his life.