24th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Cycle A | 17 September 2017
Mt. 18: 21-25
INTRODUCTION: Let us focus today on our very brief but very significant 2nd Reading from Paul’s Romans 14. This is towards the end of the Letter (Romans has only up to 16 chapters) but our text for reflection today is one of the pithiest but most memorable quotes from Paul: None of us lives for oneself and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord and, if we die, we die for the Lord.” (V. 8)
(1) The verse is a variation of Paul’s typical greeting calling himself “a slave of Christ Jesus (doulos Christou Jesou) in Rom. 1: 1. During the time of slavery, no one missed its meaning that he is a property of the one who owns him. In other words, My life is not mine! Your life is not about you! “It is no longer I who lives but Christ living in me!” These are functionally equivalent statements.
(2) Fr. Richard Wore has done a lot of work on the initiation rites of primal people. He speaks about how a young boy across cultures becomes a man. This always involves some ripping away of a child from the comforts of the home. He sums up this process in a number of formulas:
a) Life is hard!
b) You are not that important!
c) You are not in control!
d) You are going to die!
e) Your life is not about you!
This is always in contrast with childhood: Life is easy! You are so important! You are in control! You are not going to die! Your life is about you! The Initiation Rites are described to meet each of these steps but it always culminates in some encounter with the Sacred.
(3) The I-Gen refers to the young cohorts born between 1995-2012 characterized by the delaying of the maturation process of adulthood or aversion to adulting. Fr. Richard Wore says that the ultimate goal of this process is the encounter with the power of God. Your life is not about you but about God and his purpose for you. Once God’s purpose for a person is defined, in the Bible his name is changed like Simon to Peter; Saul to Paul; Abram to Abraham. Our culture today remains in perpetual adolescence, worrying about safe spaces, concerned about the violation of their rights and prerogatives and defining themselves. Emmanuel Levinas made the same point as Paul when he said that the claim that others and God have on us defines a person more than being concerned with himself. This reminds us of the Tolkin’s Story about Bilboe and Frodoe, symbols of the safe space where everything was so cosy and nice but they had to be called by Randolph for adventure and life became more exciting!
CONCLUSION: Finding yourself is not the point as discovering the treasure God has gifted you with. My life, my death, my choice! This is not what Paul is saying. This is a summary of perpetual adolescence! Rather what Paul is saying is My life, my death, I entrust to the Lord. That’s the voice of a spiritual grown up!
Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches