Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thursday in the 10th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Living in 3-D

Readings: 1 Kings 18:41-46; Psalms 65:10, 11, 12-13; Matthew 5:20-26
Picture: CC blockpartypress

Think global, act local has become a well-known mantra for many diverse fields of knowledge and human endeavor. It speaks to the need, especially in our time, to strive for a close connection between near and far, international and parochial. Some have even coined a new term – glocal – to express the importance of such connections. A good example of such efforts is found on page three of today’s local paper. The report tells of how 24 undergraduates will be heading for Russia during their vacation this year, precisely with the view to raising the global quality of their education. The education minister is also quoted as highlighting the further aim of this effort. Not only is there a concern to increase the job prospects of the students after graduation, but also their ability to contribute to the country’s development. Go glocal for growth might be an appropriate – if a little corny – slogan.

Which is all fine and good, except that one cannot help but wonder what such growth – both personal and national – will look like. Will it resemble, for example, what I happened to see on cable TV last night? There, Bangladeshi Nobel Prize recipient, Muhammad Yunus, spoke about his own approach to going glocal. He shared about what he calls social business, that is, commerce that is carried out not primarily for profit but for helping those most in need. In addition to the micro-financing initiatives of the Grameen Bank, for which he has become world-famous, he also talked about the many other different companies that he has started in order to do such things as supply potable water to areas where the ground water is tainted with arsenic. Will the kind of growth we are working towards look like this? Or will it look very different? Will it be grounded in altruism or self-seeking? Will it mediate care and concern for all or will it only further foster the cutthroat competition that often leads to conflict and chaos?

The direction in which our growth will take will depend on our connecting with yet another perspective, beyond even the global and the local. It is this crucial dimension about which Jesus speaks in the gospel today. If your virtue goes no deeper than the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven… In addition to the geographical dimensions of the local and the global, must be added the motivational – the depth – dimension of the spiritual. On this depends how and to what end we use all the different resources that we work so hard to accumulate. On this depends whether we work towards a more just and peaceful world or one characterized by more violence and oppression.

And just as going glocal requires the development of certain skills – of situational analysis and networking, for example – so too does the spiritual require the cultivation of specific disciplines. What some of these might be is illustrated in the first reading. Here Elijah models for us the spiritual attitude of waiting upon the grace of God. While economic development might be produced with prudent policies and favorable conditions, spiritual growth is ultimately a matter of grace, which comes to us like the torrential rains of the first reading. For this we need to persevere in prayer and with patience to await. And, like Elijah, we need also to learn to recognize, to anticipate, and to go with the flow of this heavenly shower. Even before the onset of the rain, Elijah hears its sound and invites the king to celebrate. At the sight of a cloud small as a man’s hand he instructs Ahab to harness the chariot. And once the torrents come, we witness the awe-inspiring power with which Elijah runs ahead of the horse-drawn king.

As important as it is to connect the dual dimensions of the global and the local, perhaps more than ever before, we are also being reminded of the significance of the spiritual. As salt of the earth and light of the world, we Christians are challenged to connect with this third dimension, and to share with others the benefits of doing the same.

To which dimensions are we connecting today?


  1. Wow, Fr Chris' reflections today are laden with stuff that touched a raw nerve, living as I do in the glocal environment! So please pardon this lengthy comment.

    As an engineer, the first thing I learnt was 3-D space delineated by the three orthogonal axes, x, y and z. To these three axes is superimposed the fourth - time - completing the human experience of time and space. Today, I'm awed by Fr Chris' 3-D phenomenon - local, global and spiritual. His 3-D view is even more compelling today - here and now - as the world teeters on the brink of chaos and anarchy. The writing is already on the wall.

    The world has its own 3-D axiom: power, sex and money. Add a generous dose of wanton greed, and you have a fail-safe prescription for "progress" and "wealth creation". The meek will not only not inherit the earth, the very shirts on their backs will be taken away from them!

    And so the growth the world is so obsessed with is poles apart from the type of social entrepreneurship of Nobel laureatte Dr Muhammad Yunus. In fact, if not for the fact that the Nobel Prize Committee noticed his altruistic endeavor, Dr Yunus would have remained another nameless, faceless individual in the crowd. I sincerely believe that divine intervention held him up to the world as living testimony of God's care for His people.

    To sum up, my two take-home points from Fr Chris' reflections:

    (1)"spiritual growth is ultimately (the action) of grace" which means salvation is not something earned (that hurts because I've been earning everything by the sweat of my brow (and wits)! Amen

    (2)"to recognize, to anticipate, and to go with the flow of this heavenly shower (of grace)". Please God teach us, despite our stuboorn-ness, to "go with Your flow". Amen

    Lord God, as humanity once again hurtles into the unknown brought about by our own doing, be our rock and our guiding star.

  2. I'm getting a little confused nowadays by the word "spiritual", especially after reading articles on Shamanism and The Spirit World on Alex Stark's site. (Incidentally, Fr Chris, one of the graphics on your blog is linking to a graphic on Alex Stark's site. That's how I chanced upon those two articles.'')

    The spiritual dimension here is surely referring to Christian spirituality and NOT to Spirit Beings, Ghosts, Elementals, Nature Spirits, and Ancestors? ;-)

    The message today, Materialism vs. Spirituality against the glocal dimensions, somehow reminds me of Hegel's perception of "Struggle unto death" and "Master-slave relation" among people in the world vs. Jesus' teaching (and example) of "Love unto death" and "Father-child relation" among people of the faith. Not all Christians manage to follow Christ closely. Still, this is at least our goal (or ideal), and maybe ultimately salvation?

    I wonder about this too: When an instructor (or a territory occupier) receives questions and/or suggestions from a student (or a visitor), how often would the former see the occasion as one of a master-slave struggle (or hostile challenge) or an opportunity for collaboration (or synergy)?


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