Saturday, January 31, 2009

Feb. 1, 2009: 4th Sunday Ordinary (B)

(NOTE: Fr. Paul will be out of the country leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Land this week. No homily will be posted for Sunday, Feb. 8th.)

Few days ago, I was saying mass for St. George school. They were celebrating the Catholic Schools Week and Catholic Education. I looked up some information and found that there were three Catholic scientists who were instrumental in discovering laws related with electricity. So that was the topic for my homily. I began the homily by asking the students there if anyone had Nintendo at home. Every hand went up. I asked them if anyone had computer at home. All hands stayed up. Then I asked if anyone had iPod. Surely I thought, at least the little ones would put their hands down. Only few did. I tell you, even our little ones are tech-savvy. Then I asked, what is the one thing common among the three. All the hands went down. Then I gave them a hint. 'Last year due to the hurricane, we did not have this for over a week so that we could not recharge our Nintendo or iPod.' Then I saw few hands go up. "Electricity," they said.

Do you still remember last year during that time? How frustrating it was the first few days of blackout. We were anxious then, apprehensive or worried about what's going to happen. As we sat in the dark, we watched our well stocked freezer slowly melt and go bad. We waited in lines at gas stations, at Home Depot and at Albertsons. After a week of not having all the amenities, we kinda got used to it, although we were inconvenienced. The older generation told the younger generation, "I remember when...we had no A/C at home or school...we had no TVs...our sugar was rationed during the war." Once we go through hardships like the Great Depression, World War II, or hurricanes, we become hardier people, able to take it as it comes. We begin to take things into perspective rather than be anxious about what will happen to us. As Mother Teresa said, "If today you are placed in a palace and it wasn't your choice but God's, then accept it. But three days later, everything is taken away from you and you are put out in the streets and it wasn't your choice but God's, accept it. That's total surrender." It's a very hard saying, yet we surprise ourselves by rising to the challenge.

Few days ago, I watched a documentary on the "Lost Boys of Sudan." These are the boys who were orphaned by civil war that destroyed entire communities and families. Thousands of young orphaned boys who survived the destruction walked a thousand miles south to the border between Sudan and Ethiopia by themselves to a UN refugee camp. There the boys sometimes got food, but often food truck did not arrive for days or weeks. When the food wasn't available, all the boys gathered under a tree to entertain themselves so that they didn't have to think about their hunger. One of the boys said, "It is as if God grew tired of us." And hence the movie's title was "God grew tired of us." Some of the boys who were now 18 were granted asylum in America, and the movie followed four of these young men's journey to America. Before they left the camp, the movie director asked them, "Do you know what electricity is?" "What's that," the young men replied. The next scene showed them bewildered by modern airplane ride. They turned on and off the cabin lights, fascinated by electricity. When meals were served, they were as confused. Many of them opened packages of butter and ate it like any other food. One of them said, "It tasted like soap."

We can be anxious about many things. It's especially difficult not to pay attention to all the negative economic news, of all the number of people being laid off from work. In our Second Reading, St. Paul tells the Corinthians, "Brothers and sisters: I should like you to be free of anxieties...a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided...A married anxious about the things of the world, how she may please her husband."(1 Corinthians 7:32-34) It's easy to say to someone, "Don't worry about that." But unless we're in their shoes, we don't know how difficult it is NOT to worry. Likewise, is St. Paul just brushing us off by saying, "Don't worry about it?" He tells Philippians the following: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7) Jesus tells us the same: "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" (Matt 6:25)

We worry when we believe that things will run out, future is uncertain and impending ill will happen. It does no good telling us, then, simply "Don't worry about it." Therefore, Jesus instead of using cheap words, gives us a beautiful prayer. "Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hollowed be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." The 13 year-olds at St. George certainly knew much about electricity in comparison to the 13 year-old Lost Boys of Sudan. But whether we live in the land of plenty or in the land of famine, we find confidence in the prayer that Jesus taught us. It is Jesus' way of saying, Heavenly Father watches over you and cares for you. He did NOT grow tired of you.