Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thursday in the 17th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola
Made In…

Readings: Jeremiah 18:1-6; Psalms 146:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6ab; Matthew 13:47-53
Picture: CC cambodia4kidsorg

Just recently, I happened to read an article written by an American, who tells of how he once addressed a letter of complaint to a department store for selling goods that were made in the People’s Republic of China. His objection was that, in doing so, the store was actually condoning and even supporting the many human rights abuses perpetrated by the government of that country. I mention this neither to make a judgment on the American in question nor on the PRC. What I find interesting is how the former should have been so conscientious in checking the manufacturing labels on the products that he was buying. He had formed a certain opinion about what he did and did not want, and he was careful to accept only those products that met his requirements, rejecting the rest.

I wonder if this is something like what we find happening in Jesus’ description of the kingdom of heaven in today’s gospel. At the end of time the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just… The question that comes to mind is: in making that final separation, what will angels be looking for? Obviously they will consider the fruits of each one’s actions. They will accept the just and reject the wicked. But how will they distinguish the one from the other? Is there perhaps a manufacturer’s label, a stamp of quality that they will be looking out for?

The first reading offers us some insight into this by using a similar manufacturing analogy. As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so you are in mine… In our relationship with God, God intends to be the potter, and for us to be the clay that submits obediently to God’s molding hand. The process may be long and arduous, but when the pot of our lives is finally complete, it can proudly bear the stamp of its divine manufacturer: made in the furnace of the Kingdom by the hands of the Eternal King.

But there will, on the other hand, also be those among us who might wish to go it on our own, or who prefer to be molded by other hands. These pots will end up being fashioned according to a different style. They will come to bear a different stamp. Made in… Yet, however beautiful and stylish may be the finished product, and however smooth and painless may have been the manufacturing process, the crucial question for us to consider is the extent to which this label will find acceptance by the angels when they go shopping on the last day?

If this image of the end of time is even somewhat accurate, then we may well need to examine closely our priorities and our ways of proceeding. We will wish to avoid hankering after things like earthly success and worldly pleasure, and instead be concerned with learning to submit to the hands of the divine potter. In the well-known phrase of St. Ignatius of Loyola, we will be concerned with finding God in all things. How else to find acceptance in the Lord’s kingdom? How else to be welcomed into the Father’s household?

Whose stamp, whose label, are we letting ourselves be marked with today?


  1. I always thought (rightly or wrongly) that, at the end of time, the angels will have an easy time separating the wheat from the chaff. Why? Because, in my simple human reckoning,

    (a) anything not of God stings the heavenly beings as corrosive substances sting us.
    (b) anything fake is instantly obvious to them. I may not be able to tell the difference between a 24k diamond and a piece of shiny rock, but not the angels.
    (c) People in creative endeavors (e.g. artists, sculptors, music composers) always sign off their pieces of work. When my time comes for the angels to scrutinize me, I sure hope that they find some trace of YHWH's signature in me.

    Let us remember the Jesuits (postulants, novices, brothers, priests) in Singapore / Malaysia / Brunei today, and pray God's continued guidance and blessings in their vocation and ministry.

    St Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.

  2. Two things came to mind about branding or labelling, which is an expensive exercise for product differentiation. It makes to reference to source.
    When Japan began its manufacturing base and engaged in reverse engineering, they create a small locality aptly named as USA, as distinct from U.S.A. The exported products were channelled through this port and carried the label 'Made in USA'. Today, they are in the forefront of forward engineering.
    We also read in the S.T. today about counterfeit goods. They carry the prestigeous label but are not made in accordance to original designer specification. They come into the category of illicit goods.
    Aren't we all a bit fake and a little genuine throughout our lives? There are moments when doubts begin to seep in about who we really are?
    Know oneself first before we can really get to know the Creator - we often pretend to be who we are not! Pray that I will constantly be aware of what I have become.

  3. What a cool site
    You might be interested in mine.
    Here's my reflection
    Let me know if you link to the site

  4. Belated happy ordination anniversary, Fr Chris. Just found out that it was yesterday! And you'll preaching at the Church of St Ignatius tonight, on the feast day of this great saint! Looking forward to that.

    As for the stamp/label, maybe mine will read:

    "Made by the Heavenly Father
    Salvaged by the Obedient Son
    Renewed by the Spirit of Love & Truth"


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