HOMILY: 13TH Sunday in Ordinary Time
There was once a pig and a hen who became very close friends because they lived in the same barn. They heard that there was going to be a feeding program for the poor in their parish. After thinking about it, the hen suggested to the pig: “Why don’t we donate bacon and eggs for the feeding program?” The pig thought for a while and said: “I don’t agree with your suggestion because you would just lay eggs and I have to be butchered to produce the bacon. To be fair, why don’t we donate bacon and fried chicken?” The hen went away sad.
My dear brothers and sisters, it is not easy to follow Jesus because following him entails sacrifice, a total self-giving – a feat which the hen was not ready to accomplish.
I painfully learned the extent of this self-giving when I became a priest. I could not build my own house and I had to leave my family. When my mother was sick and bedridden, I couldn’t spend a long time to care for her. At night, I have to sleep late to read books and prepare my notes for teaching. I have to reflect for hours so I could have something meaningful to say for my homilies. These, I do many times up to one o’clock in the morning. Most of the time, I couldn’t go where I want to, I couldn’t do what I want to do because there are obligations that I have to fulfill in my ministry – teaching, saying masses, caring for the sick, hearing confessions, conducting retreats and recollections – endless tasks for so many people. This is the total-self-giving that is demanded of me when I decided to become a priest.
However, self-giving, dedicating one’s self to God and others has its own rewards. The Lord does not really want to abandon his disciples to a life of misery and constant hardships. That is why, in the latter part of the gospel, Jesus enjoins Christians and men and women of goodwill to welcome and take good care of the holy people who left their homes and gave up their own families and careers to do God’s work. By taking good care of God’s workers, Jesus promised that they would surely be rewarded. This happened to the affluent woman in the first reading. She and her husband took care of the Prophet Elisha, feeding him at first and then building a room for him to stay and rest overnight whenever he passed by after a long journey on foot. God rewarded her with a son which she had been longing for, through the prayers of the prophet Elisha.
I am not holy as the prophet Elisha but I try to be. In my years of ministry, I labored to understand God’s Word so I can nourish others with it. Those who needed counsel, I gave them time. Those who were sad, I tried to comfort. I burn the midnight candle so I can teach my students well and inspire them to study on their own. If only I had the power to raise the dead to life, I could have done it so people would not weep anymore at the loss of their loved ones. I can only succeed in raising the spirits of the living by allowing them to laugh in the midst of their grief, to have hope in the face of losing a beloved, and to see the beauty of life after death.
For all the work that I do, people have been very generous to me. They provide for all my needs – food, shelter, and clothing, many times expensive ones. They welcome me into their homes and allow me to use their cars. I can take a vacation in Baguio, Boracay, Palawan, and in many parts of the world, courtesy of people who have heard God’s Word and experienced God’s kindness and peace through my ministry. Somebody is taking good care of my teeth, another of my eyes, yet another one is taking care of my ears, my stomach, my heart, and all parts of my body. Two days ago, somebody gave me an air purifier for my room to protect me from air-borne viruses.
I don’t have the means to repay those generous people, nor have I enough words to express to them my gratitude. I just know in my heart and I pray that God will reward them for taking good care of God’s imperfect worker.