Maybe you have heard the story of how the chicken and the cow argued who between them gives the most to their master. The cow said she gives the most because from her supply of milk, the farmer is able to have cheese as well. But the chicken argued that their master have to go through tedious work in milking the cow unlike with her when she simply has to lay eggs in her nest that can be easily obtained every day. The pig heard their discussion, praised them both for their daily supply of milk and eggs to their master but reminded them that for her to give ham and bacon, she has to die first by offering her whole life as food.
Jesus is still in the temple area teaching the people and His disciples some important lessons before His coming Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Last week He had taught us of asking questions of the above and higher things that is actually a search for God which is the most essential in life. Today, Jesus deepens this search for God by reminding us of the need to give our total selves to Him in order to find and have Him. First we ask Jesus, and now we give our total selves to Jesus.
In the course of his teaching, Jesus said to the crowds, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor in banquets.” (Mk.12:38-39)
The first step in giving our total selves to God and to others is to go back to what I call as our “hallowed hiddenness” in God. We now live in the midst of social media where everything is “exposed” with nothing hidden from us anymore. Everyone is either a “bida” or in a “pabida” mode. Bida is the star or lead character in a movie or a TV show. It is from the Spanish word vida that means life (contravida is the villain, the opposite of life). Jesus was attacking here the scribes for being so “pabida”, always seeking popularity and admiration from the people. They have entirely forgotten God and most likely must have thought of themselves as God Himself. Sad to say, this continues to our own time. Check Facebook and you see what I mean. We have become a clapping generation because everybody is a bida. Even in church where solemnity of the Mass is sacrificed on the pretext of making it more celebratory and participative that priests encourage so much clapping of hands. How sad that some Masses have become a variety show with the priest becoming a celebrity that in the process, Jesus is forgotten. Today’s warning by Jesus is personally directed to us who have become the modern scribes, reminding us how we must present ourselves more before God than before humans. There is always this danger of hypocrisy and showmanship in every kind of service especially in the Church which is also the reason why laypeople quarrel among themselves on who is the real bida. When this happens especially in the Church, we all become a kontrabida of the real and only bida, Jesus Christ.
CNN reported recently that amid South Korea’s being the most wired country in the world with the fastest internet speed, it is now building many public libraries and centers where people can relax minus the ubiquitous smartphones and other gadgets. The report says how the Koreans have realized the need for silence and stillness to truly progress. Likewise, many companies and offices in Silicon Valley are reportedly encouraging their people to drop all gadgets once in a while during work to recharge and be refreshed in silence to discover new ideas. Some tech companies there have even encouraged their workers to go hiking without bringing their gadgets to reconnect with self, others and nature. Even the latest top of the line model of the iPhone is said to have a built-in monitor that reminds a user for being too focused with the gadget for a certain period of time. These are all wonderful developments of how people are slowly rediscovering anew the need to be alone, to be still, and be silent. We need to recapture our “hallowed hiddenness” with God so we can be whole again as a person. The problem with too much exposure like in FB where even coffee breaks are posted is not only the growth of narcissism and superficiality among us but the grave mistake that one’s meaning in life is measured with the number of likes or followers one gets. Unknown to us, the more we become visible and popular, the more we also become dependent on others for having meaning in life. We can only find our true selves and meaning of life in God, the root of our being. God is always found in emptiness and nothingness, not in abundance of the world.
In the first reading we find this hallowed hiddenness in God in the beautiful story of the faith of Elijah and of that pagan widow of Zarephath. Elijah was fleeing from the soldiers sent to kill him after telling King Ahab and his queen Jezebel that there would be drought in Israel due to their worship of baal. He was first directed to a mountain stream where ravens brought him bread daily. When the stream ran dry, God told Elijah to hide in Zarephath near Sidon in the home of a pagan widow. This story of Elijah obeying God in a land of scarcity and danger (Zarephath was under the rule of Jezebel’s father) shows us his complete faith in God, of abandoning himself entirely with God. The same is true with the pagan widow who gave everything to Elijah, believing in the promise of God told by the prophet. In their hiddenness in God, relying solely on Him alone than with themselves and with others, Elijah and the pagan widow along with her son never went hungry until the rains came. When we try to spend some hallowed hiddenness with God daily, taking a break from our busy schedules and social media, that is when we are purified to become better persons filled with the Spirit and substance.
This is also the point of Jesus in calling His disciples to tell them later while seated opposite the treasury that the poor widow who put in two small coins worth a few cents gave more than the others for she “has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” (Mk.12:44) The issue at hand is not about big money and little coins or amount of contributions but the spirit behind the act of giving. Jesus was evoking here His coming total gift of self on the Cross that would soon take place which the author of the Letter to the Hebrews underscored in today’s second reading. According to Pope Francis, “Giving and forgiving means reproducing in our lives some small measure of God’s perfection, which gives and forgives superabundantly” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 81). Indeed, God has given us with so much but we have given so little. May we learn to give more of ourselves and more of Jesus in us with others. AMEN. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022. Email: email@example.com
*Photo by Dra. Mai B. Dela Pena, Showa Kinen Garden in Japan, 2018. Used with permission.