YEAR B: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE 29TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
TOPIC: HUMBLE SERVICE
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Message # 201: “A Torrent of Water”(TO THE PRIESTS, Our Lady’s Beloved Sons, Marian Movement of Priests)
1. The Marian Message
a. The Blessed Mother’s message is her explanation of the vision of St. John in theBook of Revelation 12:13-18. It talks about the Woman being pursued by the Dragon. But the Woman was given the wings of a great eagle, and she was transported to the desert. The Dragon spewed a torrent of water to submerge herand sweep her away in the strong current, but the earth opened her mouth swallowed the flood. Then the Dragon, unable to touch to Woman, directed his anger towards the rest of her offspring.
b. The Woman is Mary, the “Woman Clothed in the Sun” – she is “in the heart of the Most Holy Trinity” (letter e). The Dragon is the Devil or Satan, depicted as the seamonster (Rev. 13:1). The “wings of the great eagle” is the symbol of the power of divine help (Ex 19:4; Dt. 32:11). The torrent of water spewed by the Dragon is the deluge of “new theological theories, by which an attempt is being made to bring yourheavenly Mother down from that place where the Most Holy Trinity has placed her”(letter h). Her “place in the desert, away from the Dragon” is the place, “hidden and silent and made arid by so many struggles and wounds, in which the Woman now finds a place for herself, is the soul and the heart of my beloved sons and of all who have consecrated themselves to my Immaculate Heart” (letter k). Then the Dragon waged war “against the rest of her offspring” – although the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the flood, symbol of God’s special providence and protection for the Church, the individual Christian is to expect persecution and suffering.
c. During these times of persecutions and sufferings, brought about by the Dragon, the Blessed Mother assures us of her presence “in the desert” of our souls: “I am accomplishing the greatest prodigies in the desert in which I find myself. I carry them out in silence and hiddenness to transform the souls and the lives of these sons of mine” (letter l), turning the desert into “blossom within my garden” (letter m). We ought to live in confidence and trust: “Do not fear, because in the desert of your heartI have taken refuge and have set up my permanent dwelling place” (letter n).
d. In this great and final battle, the weapons that we bear as warriors belonging to the Woman are prayer, humility, simplicity, docility and trust in God. These will assure us of definitive victory over Satan’s pride and arrogance.
2. The Sunday Gospel
a. The seven capital sins are pride (vainglory), envy, greed (covetousness), anger, lust,gluttony and sloth. They are “deadly” or “capital” (head) not only because they areserious offenses, but also because they give rise to other sins. All these are rooted in selfishness. These sins are results of man’s putting so much value on the self, rather than on God and others as taught to us by the lesson on love, the core of authentic Christian life.
b. Pride and envy are very closely linked. A proud person hates the success and good fortune of others, which is envy. He wants all the credit and praise to himself. This is the lesson of the Gospel this Sunday: a warning against ambition, which, if not guided and controlled, will easily lead to pride and envy.
c. Ambition is a human trait that fuels people to excel, to improve and even surpass their present status. St. Irenaeus said: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” It means that man has to develop his God-given potentials, and should never be an underachiever, which is the fruit of another capital sin, sloth. Ambition, if healthy,helps man to achieve his potentials for the service of man, and for the glory of God –“Ad majorem Dei gloriam” – the motto of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Jesuits.
d. The brothers James and John were definitely ambitious. They wanted to have the most favored positions in the kingdom of Jesus. But the other disciples were equally ambitious, for they resented the request of the two brothers. Peter must have felt insulted and threatened, being the designated “Rock” of the Church. But Jesus did not outrightly condemn the ambition of his followers. The request of the two brothers and the resulting indignation of the rest in the group simply highlighted the truth that they have not learned the lesson on discipleship. Prior to this account, Jesus was teaching them about true greatness when he placed in their midst a little child. Then he continued talking about his forthcoming sufferings and death on the cross. But still, they were discussing about who is the greatest among them. And now, still not getting the lesson, the brothers boldly brought forward their request through their mother. Even the mother is also ambitious.
e. Instead of castigating them about their apparent inability to understand, coupled with their ambition, Jesus took the opportunity to teach them about the true and proper object of ambition, namely, the search for authentic greatness. The key to greatness is service: “let the greatest among you be the servant of all.” The concrete proof of greatness is humility: “Unless you become like little children, you cannot enter thekingdom of heaven.” A lofty position is secondary. In fact, it is very dangerous: “He who exalts himself shall be humbled; he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” A position of power and prestige is not to be sought for itself, and definitely not for pride and selfish ambition. If ever, it is to be sought solely as an opportunity to be of better service. St. Augustine, when appointed as Bishop of Hippo, told the people:“With you, I am a Christian; but for you, I am a bishop.” He reminded himself and others that basically, there is equality among us – we are all followers of Christ. But in order to serve the welfare of the community, someone must lead them – a servant-leader. That is why he accepted the position of bishop, not out of pride and ambition, but in his earnest desire to serve his people better. That is true greatness.That is the object of a healthy and helpful ambition.
f. The ultimate model of true service and greatness is no less than Jesus himself: “For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for the many.” This statement he reiterated by example during the Last Supper when he bent down on each of his apostles and washed the feet of each one. Then he said: “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (Jn 13:14-15). And according to the exampleof Jesus, true service is not just giving something, but giving everything, even to the point of self-sacrifice: “to give his life as a ransom for the many.”
g. “Can you drink the cup that I drink?” This is an Old Testament metaphor for accepting one’s destiny as assigned by God. The baptism that Jesus is talking about has reference to his rejection, sufferings and death. Jesus said that his followers will have to drink the cup and have this baptism – meaning to say, they will follow him all the way, including his destiny of sufferings and death as ransom for the many. He is, therefore, talking about discipleship – it is a serious matter which involves readinessto sacrifice and even to die for Jesus. There was no mention about position, power and prestige. Discipleship of Jesus, on the contrary, talks about powerlessness, sacrifice and sufferings. It is the opposite of “those who are recognized as rulersover the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority overthem felt.”
3. Points for Reflection a. When election time comes, the word “service” is constantly on the lips of thecandidates trying to get votes. But service is not a simple word – it is an action word. No one should utter that word if he has no intention of doing it. He loses all credibility. In the teachings of Jesus, the word service has such a lofty meaning that he applies to himself: “The Son of Man has come to serve.” It should not be used by anybody, especially corrupt politicians who are liars and experts in “self-service.” b. Positions of authority are for service, not for ambition, pride and greed. A person who holds such a position, but uses it for his personal ambition and greed, is a traitor and a monster. He is a menace to society. He can destroy the lives of people and dragthem to hell. A person who is hungry for money is dangerous; but a person who ishungry for power is definitely more dangerous. But money and power are likehusband and wife. They have an inseparable symbiotic relationship. They have thecapacity to transform a man into a ruthless devil.
c. Humility is the most basic virtue. All the other virtues are founded on humility. Itcomes from the word “humus” – soil. The soil is unattractive, lowly and despised because it is considered dirty. But our earthly existence is anchored on the soil. Everything is established on it – building, roads, plants and trees, animals, the ocean, our whole lives. This is the same with humility – it is unattractive, but any growth in Christian virtues is unimaginable without it. This is what the Blessed Mother is trying to inculcate in us – hiddenness, littleness, obedience, and childliketrust in God. All these qualities have been shown to us in the life of Mary, the first and greatest disciple of Jesus. The devil hates humble people because he knows how powerful they are against evil. They are the beautiful reflections of Jesus, “who humbled himself and became man”, who “came not to be served, but to serve.” Instead, the devil likes proud and arrogant people – they are like him in many ways.
d. Envy is a common disease among people. We resent the success and good fortuneof others. But this is a very deadly sin. Rather than being envious, we should look atourselves and learn to count our blessings. Rather than looking at what people have,let us look at what we have – our talents, health, family, material and spiritualblessi ngs. We have been blessed by God beyond our imagining! But we fail torealize that because we look at others, and see what they have that we do not have,and then we become envious. This is the start of an unhappy and discontented life.When we become discontented with what we have, no matter how abundant these are, we become unhappy. Then we blame others, and we blame God. Envy is like a cancer that gnaws on our souls. Unless we remain close to God, we will not have contentment – materialism, envy, greed will continue to make our life miserable, and there is no end to that. St. Augustine said: “My soul is restless until it rests in you, O mLord.”
Pray again the Litany of Humility.
GUIDE QUESTIONS FOR SHARING IN THE B.E.C.:
1. Sa mata ng Diyos, sino ang mas dakila: ang isang baluktot na pulitiko o ang isang tapat na basurero?
2. Bakit madalas tayong naiinggit sa mga taong mayaman at sikat? Ano kaya ang ang ugat na pinagmumulan ng inggit?
3. Bakit nasasabing mas delikado ang kapangyarihan kaysa kayamanan?
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