we take Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel
literally, then Jesus would sound very cold and
heartless toward our parents. This literal interpretation
cannot be true because we all know that Jesus
teaches and wants us to honour our parents.
what Jesus is trying to remind us in today’s
Gospel is to have a total and selfless commitment
to God; Jesus is asking us to put God first in
our lives, as He Himself has shown us, through
soon as we hear the word, “total
and selfless commitment to God,” many of
us would sub-consciously tell ourselves: “I
can’t, I am only a Sunday Catholic; I am
not the ‘holy, holy type’ of Catholic;
I am already finding it so difficult to be faithful
to my prayers, so how can I be totally and selflessly
committed to God?!”
feelings are understandable. However, they are
not necessarily signs that we don’t love
God. I believe all of us here love God in one
way or another. The fact that we are here in
this Sunday Mass, shows that God means something
to us in our lives. Otherwise, we would not be
here. Otherwise, we would prefer to sleep-in
more or to spend our Sunday mornings differently.
believe we should be more positive in evaluating
ourselves, and our faith. We should first to
be aware that we are daily seriously affected
and influenced by the secular world and society
that we are in. We are strongly influenced,
dominated and even sub-consciously controlled
by Mass Media like: advertisements, films, internet,
and the like.Mass Media is not all and always
bad. Important news and information of what is
happening around the world will not reach us
if we don’t
have Mass Media.
Media also do offer good and wholesome entertainment.
However, Mass Media is never neutral; they often
bombard us constantly with negative messages
and images. With time, we will absorb secular
values into our lives sub-consciously. All of
us are over exposed to Mass Media daily, and
we would likely over time, sub-consciously make
possessions, prestige, power and popularity to
be more important than people with human flesh
seriously, Mass Media can empty our hearts of
compassion, love, care and service towards others
including people of our own family; wealth can
even become thicker than blood. The greatest
danger of the secular world is the BIG LIE that
we will be happy and fulfilled in life, if and
only if people pay attention to us, praise us,
look up to us and the like. And, that without
such self-centred attention; without such ego-centred
focus, we can never be happy.
sisters and brothers in Christ, all these secular
values promote only one thing; they promote our
self-importance and they support a lifestyle
that can only bring us disappointments, envy
and even anger when such desires are not fed.
can never bring happiness to anyone who is
normal. Do you know of any person who is proud,
self-opinionated, cold and calculative, materialistic
and who is willing to destroy the reputation
of others and the like? Would you want to marry
such a person? Would you want such a person to
be your pastor? Would you be proud to have such
a son or daughter or parent?y.
The answer is obvious. Self-centredness promoted
by the secular world, is just the total opposite
of the Gospel values of Jesus that promotes selflessness,
compassion, and love and the service of others.
About three weeks ago, a 79 year old Dutch
Jesuit priest from Indonesia, Fr Heselaars,
came here to visit and accompany a fellow
Jesuit who is in hospital. Two weeks ago,
while changing, Fr Heselaars fell in his
room and broke his thigh bone into four
pieces. While we were puting a pillow under
his head while he was lying on the floor waiting
for the ambulance to arrive, we asked him, “Father,
how are you feeling?” He immediately said, “Well,
I’m very fine and comfortable here.”
after the operations, when asked how he was,
he always said, “I’m very well thank you.
I have been through much more serious operations
and accidents before; this is nothing.” Over
the past three weeks, Fr Heselaars never once
complained about any thing. He is always very
polite, pleasant and full of praises and gratitude
for any person who visits him and attends to
me, Fr Heselaars is a good model . . . a great
inspiration. If I grow old, I would like to be
as gentle and grateful towards people; peaceful
and positive towards life and even in painful
situations. I can see that Fr Heselaars’ heart
is full of love for God. He is a man of God.
When I asked him what books he wanted to read,
he asked for the Bible, a Jesuit prayer book,
and the letters of St Ignatius.
we were in hospital or on vacation, “What type of
books and magazine did we read? Did we read glossy
magazine and watched TV most of the time? Did
we used the opportunity to pray more? To me,
the reason why Fr Heselaars’ is so positive
and at peace with himself and his present condition
of helplessness is because throughout the past
fifty or more years of his life, he has been
living a selfless life of service for the needs
of others. He has lived for others. He has precisely
lived the life that Jesus speaks of in today’s
sisters and brothers, there are two opposing
values in our lives: the secular values and the
Gospel values. As we can see, the secular values
that promote our self-importance is nothing,
but a big lie; a big-lie that can never bring
any happiness or fulfilment our lives. Instead,
it can only bring division in our hearts
and our homes and even a downfall to our career.
Gospel Values that Jesus speaks about today,
on the other hand will assure us of the deepest
joy, peace and happiness in our daily living.
Our families will be happier and our lives will
be more wholesome because when our focus in life
will be to care, love and serve others, we will
then become selfless like Christ. With time,
Christ then, will become our model and focus
in life, instead of focusing on the self.
know of a top executive (let us call him James,
not his real name). James has more than ninety
brand new, branded suits! He retired early from
work because his two daughters and three sons
have grown up. Even though he is still healthy
and fit, he decided to spend the remaining years
of his life serving the needs of the poor and
people in need. One of his daughters told me
that dad had given away, to charity, all his
ninety plus brand new and branded suits to
live a simpler life.
retirement, dad has lived a very busy life. He
serves the needs of the poor, the sick, the aged,
the lonely. Although his daily life is so full,
dad somehow still finds time for us in the family.
Some of his friends think he is crazy to have
given up such a prestigious and high paying career
but, he thinks otherwise.
is fully convinced that in doing all these and
in being so generous with his wealth, he finds
himself even more blessed by God. James clearly
sees how all his wealth, good career and loving
family are all God’s blessings. So, it
is only right that He repays God through his
generosity and service of the needs of people.
now finds his daily life to be filled with
even more blessings from God, especially each
time he is able to bring consolation, comfort
to the sick, dying and depressed. In living in
this manner, James has never been happier and
more fulfilled in his life.
sisters and brothers in Christ, let me conclude
. . . by summing up what today’s Gospel challenge is about.
When Jesus, in today’s Gospel tells us
to be more selfless and more committed in our
faith in God in the way we live our daily life,
Jesus is not being cold and heartless even though
this may mean that we have to put God before
our personal needs and attachments in life.
is challenging us to live a more happy
and fulfilling life; a life that loves, cares
and serves others; a life that is selfless and
totally committed to God. Indeed, a life of happiness
that will last even after our death and for all
eternity.The alternative lifestyle of the secular
world is a life that is self-serving and focused
on self-importance; a life that can only bring
emptiness, envy and anger; a life that will inevitably
lead us to failures and frustrations that come
with self-centredness. Indeed, a life that, divides
and eventually destroy every thing that we value.
And all of us know and cannot deny that, this
is the plain truth about any self-centred person.
Spend some time today to ponder for a few moments
on what heard about Fr Heselaars, and ask ourselves, “What
will my old age be like?” Ponder also on James
and then ask yourself, “What is Jesus challenging
me here and now of my daily living?”
there is only one way to live our daily life.
There is only one choice in our life. We have
to live the Gospel values of Jesus Christ.
Philip Heng, S.J.