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September 1, 2020
Obedience is the Generosity of the Heart
September 3, 2020

Homily for 2 September 2020, Tuesday of the 22nd Week in OT, Luke 4:38-44

When Pope Francis visited us in January of 2015, I was assigned as Chairman of the Physical Arrangement Committee. I remember when we were being given an orientation by an advanced party from the Vatican, the Papal representative laid down in very clear terms the Pope’s expectations. He said, “The Pope does not want to be treated like a rock star. He wants the visit to be focused, not on himself, but on the one whom he represents and his message: Jesus, His MERCY AND COMPASSION.”
Instead of displaying tarps and big pictures of himself all over Metro Manila, he prefered a simple logo that actually prepared us for the Year of Mercy that he declared a few months later—the one with the two concentric circles: an outer blue circle symbolizing the Father’s open arms welcoming and embracing an inner red circle symbolizing the prodigal son in the Lukan parable, and the theme MERCY AND COMPASSION written below the logo.
In today’s Gospel, you would understand where Pope Francis is getting his inspiration from: from Jesus himself. If there was one thing that was always clear to Jesus, and which he seemed consistently resolute about, it was his sense of PURPOSE.
St Luke tells us Jesus cured Peter’s mother-in-law, and the old woman got up and served. Meaning, the healing was not for its own sake; it was so that she could continue her life’s purpose—which was to welcome guests and to serve at table.
What do you want good health for, if you don’t have a purpose in life? What do you want to earn a lot of money for? What do you want good education for? What do you prefer a long life to a short life for? More important than a long life is a life that is worth living. Look—Jesus lived his earthly life only for 33 years. His public ministry lasted for only 3 years. And yet, here we are, 2,000 years later, still celebrating his life, still emulating his example, still remembering his words, still following his way.
The last part of the Gospel makes it clear to us how Jesus kept himself focused in his life’s mission: through PRAYER. No matter how busy he was, the Gospels tell us he always found time to pray. Luke tells us his favorite time of prayer was at daybreak, very early in the morning. It was like a regular routine for him to wake up early in order to go into solitude in some deserted place, to ground himself on the Father’s will, to nurture his interior life. No wonder he could not be distracted by the Evil One.
In the Gospel, Luke tells us the demons whom he expelled tried to name him. As they were expelled, they cried out, “You are the Son of God.” But he silenced them. He did not allow them to name him because he did want them to have power over him. The devil, you know, is a master of flattery. Remember the temptation story? He kept repeating to Jesus, Don’t you know who you are? You are the son of God; you have prerogatives. His strategy is to get us to focus on ourselves. He is an expert in ego massage.
Luke tells us everyone was looking for him as he was praying. And when they found him, they tried to prevent him from leaving them. I could imagine the devil speaking through them, “Hey Jesus, why leave this place? You have a big following, you are very popular here already! Don’t you see, people like you very much!” In today’s social media language, you’d say he was trending or getting viral. But what does he say to them in reply? “I have to go to the other towns and proclaim the good news to them too.” He chooses not to rest on his laurels or to indulge in all the attention that was being given to him by those who idolized him.
This was his way of saying to his disciples, “We are not here to build a fans club. We’re here to seek out the last, the least, and the lost, those who are longing to hear the good news that the reign of God is here. Let’s keep ourselves focused only on our purpose.”


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