Thursday, October 11, 2007

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?


  1. Welcome back Fr. Chris!

    It is the time treasured cliche "Old habits die hard" at work again. Change is always difficult because we are creatures of habit. In our work life also, implementation of changes to "work flow process" are the most challenging. Glad that you came back with a happy experience.

    Just wanted to say that the word "perseverance" has been popping out for me lately and I thank you for that. God does listens attentively and He answers!!!

    Praise the Lord!!!

  2. Hello Fr Chris,
    Welcome back! Been opening the blog page just waiting... and the wait is over :-)

    Praise God for the wonderful and peace-filled experience you had, and especially for sharing.

    Lately, i have been experiencing much darkness and finding God very silent indeed...and your message of "perseverance" is most timely. God has spoken to me through you. I was the one who had been "noisy", hence, I was not able to hear Him...He was really loud this evening! Praise God!

    God Bless you every day!


  3. Welcome back Fr Chris! A timely reminder to keep looking forward to the dawn and not to dwell in the dark. Even as I contemplate my own worries, they are nothing compared to the issues of mere survival that many face. Prayers for the people of Navotas and the many other in the world like them.

  4. Hi Chris!

    Indeed, your blog entries have been missed, and I am one of those who 'secretly' peek into it once in a while.

    Please allow me to share with you what I preached to the folks at mass yesterday. Thank you for your insights, and from one priest to another, I praise God for your efforts and courage.

    Here is what I said:

    Week 27 Thursday

    One of the greatest spiritual aims in life is to have what I would call the correct vision in life. I suppose it is apparent in all the major religion in the world, where followers of their chosen paths believe that the road that they walk on will lead them to the ability to see what is real and to help them separate from what are mere fascinations and pretty distractions that only serve to blind us from what is real and necessary in life.

    When we Catholics believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, we are saying that in him lies the answers to all of life’s apparent problems. Not that he gives us the answers in an outright way, but that if we follow him and his way of life, his selflessness, his non-judgemental attitude, his compassion, the world will be seen in a way that many fail to, and when they do, they are the ones who make the necessary difference in the world. The way that Mother Theresa’s vision, and Francis of Assisi’s vision changed the world.

    Many in the world are chasing after so many things that they think will give them the happiness that they seek. In today’s gospel text, Jesus uses the example of the father handing his son the fish and not the snake, the egg and not the scorpion, and the bread and not the stone. It’s Jesus’ way of saying that there are many out there back then, and even up till now, who have such a stilted vision of life and what brings happiness and long term fulfilment, that the things that they are handing out mindlessly to their children, out of love (or what they think is love), are actually the scorpions disguised as eggs, the stones camouflaged as bread, and the snakes that appear as fish.

    What are these? For one, the unwillingness to discipline children because they fear it will make children resent them; so they dote on them and spoil them to no end, making them little kings and queens in the home. Some parents are reluctant to be of any spiritual guidance to their children because they feel inadequate, and just leave it to the catechists in church. Their feelings of inadequacies may be real, but the refusal to address this and do something about it and instead, push it to catechists, is the handing out of snakes dressed as fish. This snake will reveal itself later on in life when the children themselves are not spiritually adequate because their parents refused to address their own spiritual handicaps.

    When Jesus says ask, search and knock, I think we must remember that before asking and searching and knocking for things material and things that we think will make our lives more pleasant, dare to ask, search and knock for things that matter the most - matters that change the way we see life, the world and what is of radical importance to a life of meaning and substance. This prayer is then really a prayer that is asking how to ask, searching how to search and knowing how knock on the right doors of life.

    Yours in Christ

  5. To live is to suffer, and to be able to endure suffering requires perseverance.

    Although we are not in Navotas to endure physical suffering, I think that there is still alot of suffering here. The mental anguish of defiant children, distant parents, straying spouses, and difficult colleagues causes alot of mental stress and suffering. We need offer up all these difficulties to the Lord as we can't handle them all by ourselves!

    We need to persevere and work at our relationships. Discipline in children, repairing and sustaining family ties and communicating with our spouses takes time and effort.