Thursday in the 27th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Awaiting the Dawn
Readings: Malachi 3:13-20b; Psalm 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6; Luke 11:5-13
My nine companions and I spent this past week living in a district called Navotas, comprising fourteen neighbourhoods, most of them very poor. The exposure experience was organized by the Pag-Aalay Ng Puso Foundation (offering of the heart), or PPF for short, a local NGO that has been working in the area since 1988. Almost twenty years have passed since PPF began working for and with the people of Navotas. And yet it’s so easy, especially for an undiscerning and overly critical eye, to miss the good that has been achieved thus far. For in many ways the people of Navotas are still living in the darkness of poverty and squalor.
One morning, my host brought me to the cemetery next to where her neighbourhood was located, to show me the final resting place of a relative. But we were prevented from reaching our destination because the way was strewn with human faecal matter. Indeed, although our host families were chosen partly because their houses are equipped with toilets, many other households in the area do not yet enjoy the same luxury.
Later we were told that although public toilets were built some years ago, with contributions from benefactors, the PPF had had to spend a whole year educating people about the importance of modern sanitation. It was only gradually that people were won over and began spontaneously to build toilets in their own homes. Even so, not all have heard the message, as my aborted cemetery visit made clear. Much more needs to be done. In this and in many other ways, the PPF and the people of Navotas continue to await the dawn of a new day.
And yet theirs is not a waiting of total passivity but of perseverance, the same perseverance that we find spoken about in our readings today. In the gospel, Jesus highlights the importance and efficacy of perseverance in prayer: ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you… And in the first reading, we find a perseverance not just of personal prayer but also of communal dialogue and collaboration. Faced with a situation where the innocent suffer while the guilty seem to prosper, the people who fear the Lord spoke with one another, and the Lord listened attentively…
Quite inexplicably, in spite of the challenges we had to face, this past week spent in Navotas has been a very happy one for me. How could this be? Perhaps it is because in the apparent hopelessness, there are yet people who are persevering. Perhaps it is because in the apparent darkness of the night, dawn is already breaking, the sun of justice is already beginning to shine with healing rays.
How are we being called to persevere as we await the dawn?