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Standing by Christ

Homily for 29th Sunday in Ordinary time year A 2014

In 2001, in my first year in the seminary, our rector volunteered some of us seminarians to join  the nationwide prayer rally calling for the resignation of the then  reigning President of the country. The president was accused of plundering billions of pesos which  he allegedly used for his selfish whims and for self-gratification.

At first I had this unholy revulsion and urge not to go because I was feeling a bit uncomfortable of joining a gathering like that. Not that I don’t want to but because I thought then that the Church must not be caught up with  politics and besides there is a separation between the Church and the state. However, I decided to go still out of obedience,, otherwise I would have been red-marked to be not a good candidate for the priesthood.

I was glad I went because that was for me a great moment of grace.

It might be a disgrace for the president because that was one of the main forces that triggered his downfall. He was later on found guilty and sentenced to life in jail. Sad to say, he didn’t really spend so much of his sentence in jail because the president following him gave him pardon, and so he was released. And in our last Presidential election, we almost became a laughing stock for all the world when the deposed ex-President ran to the office again and almost won. Thankfully he didn’t.

Anyhow, being in  that rally was a great moment of grace for me because I saw how amazing it is to gather as one, no matter if you’re representing the Church or the state, one in the search for truth to be uncovered, for justice to be served, and to work for the common good. I realize that in terms of truth, of justice, and for the common good there should be no separation between the Church and the state. Rather we should be working together to uphold the truth, to serve justice and to work for the good of all. This is our responsibility as a citizen in the land.

It is a challenge for us especially for those of faith in God and for those of us in the Church, because we have seen some things the State favours that are not in accord with what the Church believes in or standing for. Thus, at times we may be  caught up with confusion as to where should our loyalty be. There are times in our life, when we really need to strike a balance between our responsibility to the State and our obedience to the Church and to the faith. ‘In more ideal circumstances, they should be complementary’ says Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, the retired Archbishop of Cebu, in his answer to the question of young man being caught with the challenge to strike the balance between being a citizen of the State and as a person of faith.  The Cardinal continued: ‘The faith should teach us to be responsible citizens  and the State should enact laws that provide for the full development of the human person, which is also the goal of faith.’ But we know in many instances this is not the case.

However, this must not discourage us to work together to achieve the good, the truth, and that which is just, right and proper.

Jesus in the gospel today shows us that there is a way to strike a balance between our responsibility to the Sate and our adherence to our faith. Jesus said: ‘Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God.’ In other words we are to do the what is right and just, proper and true, and what is noble towards God and towards the State.

To be able to do this we need the Holy Spirit who would guide us and to help us see the truth (Jn 16:13). Let us ask the guidance of the same Holy Spirit that has been guiding the Church and has been giving the gifts of faith throughout the centuries. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us see the truth of who we really are, and what really is God calling us to  do.

We really need God because apart from him we are nothing (Is 45:6) and we can do nothing (Jn 15:5).  

We need Jesus Christ because he is the way, the truth and the life. (Jn 14:6). This means then we need to take side on the truth who is Jesus. We are to follow him more closely to stay on the truth and to what is just and right. Certainly, the closer we are to Jesus, the heavier the cross or the more real suffering is, but we are to be consoled in the truth that in Christ, suffering has a salvific meaning.

To take side on Christ and to learn from him always poses  a challenge because as I said this many times before, he not only comforts the afflicted, he also afflicts the comfortable. But in staying with him no matter what, we come to know, learn and be courageous to stand up for the truth. In him we  see our true selves, our true humanity, our true calling in life.

Fr Flor McCarthy, SDB has an interesting comment on how beneficial it is for us to stand by Christ. Fr McCarthy said: ‘His (Christ) truth shows up our lies. His integrity shows up our falseness. His generosity shows up our selfishness. His peace shows up our conflicts. His openness shows how closed we are. Therefore, we should not be surprised if we sometimes feel uncomfortable in his presence.

Certainly, truth hurts and makes us uncomfortable at times, but the truth also heals. Let us just stay and stand by Christ and he’ll never let us down for sure, instead he would teach us to do what is right and just, good and true, proper and  what is noble.

Quotes from: Fr Flor McCarthy SDB, ‘Sunday & HolyDay Liturgies Cycle A and  Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu, ‘You’re Still Young, I’m Old…A Conversation with the Youth of Cebu.’

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