March 07, 2010
Perishable: Do Not Delay!
A new convert to Catholicism decided to go to confession. In the confessional, he told the priest that he had sinned. “What was your sin, my son?” asked the priest. “I stole some lumber, Father,” replied the man. “How much lumber did you steal?” asked the priest. “Father, I have a Rottweiler and I built him a nice new doghouse.” The priest replied, “Well, that’s not so bad.” The man continued, “Father, I also built myself a 4-car garage.” “Well, that’s a little more serious,” the priest said. “But Father, there’s more. In addition to the doghouse and the 4-car garage, I also built a two-storey, 5-bedroom house!” After a long and heavy silence, the priest finally spoke, “Oh, that’s a lot of lumber! Now, that is serious. I’m afraid you’ll have to make a novena.” The man excitedly replied, “Father, I’m not sure what a novena is, but if you’ve got the architectural design, I’ll build it for you. I still have a lot of lumber!”
Poor guy! He does not know what a novena is, he has no idea about the sin of stealing, and he even attempted to bribe the priest! This is the sad thing about people nowadays. They have all the expertise in various sciences and technology, but they know almost nothing about the doctrines of our faith. Worse still, many are losing the sense of sin – unaware of the horror of sin. And worst of all these is to accuse and judge others as more sinful than ourselves.
A few days after that devastating earthquake in Haiti two months ago, the conservative televangelist, the Rev. Pat Robertson, publicly said on his Christian Broadcasting Network, that the people of Haiti was “cursed” for entering into a “pact with the devil” in the late 18th century in a bid to defeat French colonizers. According to him, the people of Haiti got together and swore a pact to the devil: “We will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French.” For Robertson, the earthquake was a “blessing in disguise”! It is almost like saying “the people of Haiti got what they deserved.”
Honestly, it is quite hard to believe that a renowned preacher would miss the important lesson of today’s Gospel. Jesus mentioned two incidents: the Galileans who were murdered on orders of Pilate as they were offering sacrifices, and the death of eighteen people who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them. The public judgment on them was immediate and conclusive: they deserved to die that way for they were sinners! To have this kind of reaction in the face of such horrendous tragedies and so much human sufferings is not only insensitive but outright cruel.
In a party, a handsome guy approached a girl and asked, “Are you going to dance?”
The girl felt so happy that someone finally asked her. “Yes, of course!” she replied as she quickly stood up. The guy said “That’s good because I need your chair.” It would not be surprising if the girl would have smashed his face with her chair.
Our arrogance and egoism have made us calloused and insensitive to the plight of our unfortunate brothers and sisters. This applies not only in cases of calamities and disasters but also in the case of personal sins and scandals that have been ruthlessly sensationalized and blown up by the media. Many times, instead being moved to pity, we quickly jump to conclusions, look down on them with contempt, utter unkind remarks and judge them harshly. But who are we to be the first to cast a stone at somebody? St. Paul has this warning: “Whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.” (1Cor10:12). Too often we forget the Beatitude: “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7).
The words of Jesus in the Gospel are very strong: “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will perish as they did!” In other words, whatever misfortune that happened to other people – whether they are natural disasters or personal sins and scandals – could also happen to us at any time. That is why Jesus warns us not to be self-righteous and not to judge others rashly, but to look at these unfortunate events as eye-openers to our own weaknesses and vulnerability, and as reminders of the urgent need to reform our lives. Instead of judging, we thank God that in His mercy He has spared us from such unfortunate events. For all we know, it could be us, had it not been for the mercy of God! And instead of condemning others and thinking ill of them, let us be kind, understanding and helpful to them. St. James said: “Remember this: the person who brings a sinner back from his way will save his soul from death and cancel a multitude of sins” (Jas 5:20).
The news about calamities, disasters, wars and various forms of human sufferings and deaths are now so frequent that they seem to gradually lose their ability to shock and wake us up. But these are all happening in close succession to precisely warn us of the extreme danger that we are facing, and to avail of God’s mercy and forgiveness ASAP! We do not have the luxury of time. This is what the parable of the fig tree is all about. We have to bear fruit now or we will be cut down.
We are now in the third Sunday of Lent. Time flies so swiftly. By next Sunday, we will have to set our timepieces as we spring one hour forward in the Daylight Saving Time. And before we know it, Easter is here. Let us not allow time to slip away without making a decisive move to seek God’s pardon in the sacrament of Confession. Let this season be holy and full of grace – the grace of repentance and conversion that will enable us to walk the glorious path of salvation and eternal joy.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Teresa Church
New York, NY 10002