Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 16, 2017 – Year A
Readings: Is 55:10-11 / Ps 65 / Rom 8:18-23 / Mt 13:1-23
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
Last month, when I was in the Philippines, I was commissioned by some of my relatives to convince my uncle to follow the doctor’s advice: that he should undergo a heart bypass, so he could continue to function for the remainder of his life. (He’s not really that old; compared to my Mom, who’s 102, he’s just a baby.)
He had been bedridden for more than two years. The doctors told him that, since he had no other major health problems, other than blockages in the major arteries and veins in his heart, he was a good candidate for bypass surgery. But he refused to undergo such a procedure. His reasoning is that he’d rather die peacefully than die in pain and suffering.
I told him that bypass surgery nowadays is not as scary as it was forty years ago. And I related to him the story of my friend in Virginia Beach who had undergone a quadruple bypass fifteen years ago, who’s now able to walk several miles a day, and whose golf game is better than ever.
(Since he knows nothing about golf, and he knows that I play golf, my uncle said, “By the way, how’s your game?” I told him, “Well, the only thing I can tell you is, in our group I always have the highest score.” He said, “You must be really good.” “I try.”)
Before I left, he assured me that he would strongly consider the surgery. His wife told me that his attention couldn’t go beyond suffering and pain; his attention was only focused on the suffering before, after, and during the procedure. He wasn’t able to see the freedom he’d have and the ability to once again walk around after the operation.
This is actually the challenge for all of us in that situation. But in our spiritual life, we have a much bigger challenge. In today’s second reading, which is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, the apostle said, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” In his Second Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul told them: “We fix our eyes, not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Common sense will tell us, though, that focusing our attention on what our physical eyes can’t see, is not easy. But the lives of the saints will tell us that it is possible.
On a smaller scale, we are already doing this. Students, for instance, will undergo a sort of suffering by doing their homework and research and term papers, to get the reward of high grades and be able to graduate eventually. Athletes will endure the pain and train religiously to gain the reward of the gold medal. Bodybuilders always say: “No pain, no gain.” This is probably what Arnold Schwarzenegger was saying all those years, until he got the reward of being Mr. Universe and eventually an actor and the governor of California.
Professionals in different disciplines spend thousands of hours doing studies and research to gain the reward of being experts in their chosen field. They are able to focus on the rewards instead of focusing their attention on the suffering and the pain they endure during training and studies.
In our spiritual lives, this is what we do. We focus on the joy of living in God’s presence. The martyrs who happily embrace even death for the sake of Jesus are not superhuman; they are ordinary mortals like you and I. What makes them strong to handle all their persecutions is their faith that Jesus is always with them.
This is what we all believe: that the same Jesus is also always with us. With the power of the Holy Spirit we will also be able to see our suffering and pains, not as stumbling blocks, but as steppingstones to our true happiness, peace, and joy, not only in this world, but in eternal life in the next.
So as we continue praying together and celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, let us ask our Lord Jesus, Whose Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity we will receive a few minutes from now, to give us the grace, so that, like St. Paul, we will also be able to say: “I consider that the sufferings of the present time are as nothing compared with the glory that will be revealed for us.”