40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II Friday in the Second Week of Lent, 10 March 2023 Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28 >>> + <<< Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46
Being kind is more than being good. The word “kind” is from the old English kin – as in kindred or kinsfolk or same family, clan, or tribe. A kind person is someone who treats you as a kin, a family and not as an alien or a stranger. “Hindi ka naman iba sa amin” as we would say in Tagalog (“You are not different from us”). It is perhaps the most Christian word in the English language as it refers to our belonging to one big family with God as our Father and everyone a brother and a sister in Christ.
Unfortunately, kindness has become a rarity in our world today that has become so unkind where we feel so “different” as in “iba” in Tagalog even right in our own family like in the experience of Joseph in our first reading today.
They said to one another: “Here comes the master dreamer! Come on, let us kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns here; we could say that a wild beast devoured him. We shall then see what comes of his dreams.”Genesis 37:19-20
Most often, it is jealousy that makes people unkind like with the elder brothers of Joseph. This is expressed in our name-calling as we refuse to acknowledge someone as our kin by giving them aliases like Joseph referred to by his brothers as “master dreamer”. We Filipinos have all kinds of aliases and codes for the family members we hate like “bruha”, “demonyo”, “Hudas” or even “Hitler”. The more mean, the better, without us realizing how our jealousies expressed in name-calling deteriorate into sinister plots against our own kin. It is the most unkindest kind of unkindness demonstrated in the selling of Joseph:
Judah said to his brothers, “What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood? Rather, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites, instead of doing away with him ourselves. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.” His brothers agreed. They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. (Gen.37:26-28).Genesis 37:26-28
This is the tragedy now going on in our family when we call our parents and siblings as “mom” and “dad”, “kuya” and “ate” yet at the same time, disrespect them in our thoughts and deeds! See the absurdity of Judah in concluding, “after all, he is our brother, our own flesh” that they sold him! He miserably missed the whole point that if Joseph were their brother and own flesh, all the more he should have cared and saved him even from being sold to slavery right there!
This is the curse of many fraternities in our universities. Even worst than Judah, there are some fratmen blinded by their rites and rituals of initiations that they have forgotten or have become oblivious to the meaning of brotherhood or fraternity. The most incomprehensible of all is with every death happening among their brods, still the same story of silence and cowardice happening with all attempts to hide their heinous crimes.
It is a tragedy we also participate daily in our homes when we regard our family as kin yet at the same time disregard all kindness and respect due to our parents and brothers and sisters, or to husband and wife. What an unkind world we have when we cheat on one another with our infidelity and betrayals, when we stab each other with harsh words of suspicions without bases at all as well as our never ending sumbatan.
Jesus himself shows us in his parable of the wicked tenants the face of this “unkindest kind of being unkind” springing not only from jealousy but from our self-centeredness and self-righteousness.
“when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.”Matthew 21:38-39
What an unkind world when after recognizing one another as a kindred, instead of being kind and respectful, of having malasakit, like the wicked tenants we use our ties and kinships as bases for murderous and other evil plots against those we know and closest to us.
It is disheartening and frustrating when our social media are filled with moral aspersions as well as downright accusations so harsh that could sometimes get into one’s nerves, hurting our sensibilities. True, charity is never imposed and respect has to be earned but kindness is demanded of us because being kind is the hallmark of a person’s goodness.
Our responsorial psalm captures the reason why we must always be kind, “Remember the marvels the Lord has done.” And here lies the warning to those unkind, “When the Lord called down a famine on the land and ruined the crop that sustained them, he sent a man before them, Joseph, sold as a slave” (Ps. 105:16-17).
The story of Joseph the Dreamer never fails to move us of how in the end, his brothers wept in shame upon meeting him as their brother whom they have sold into Egypt. As Jesus said too to the chief priests and Pharisees of his time, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?” (Mt.21:42).
This season of Lent, let us try to bring back kindness in our hearts, in our words, in our thoughts and in our deeds even if others are not kind to us. Sometimes, kindness has a way of teaching us the importance of this virtue that may not be always be so kind at all. Amen.