13 August 2009. Thursday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time
Joshua 3, 7-17; Psalm 114; Matthew 18,21 – 19,1
Every person is given an opportunity to be great. Tom Cruise for example was propelled to stardom in the 1983 comedy film, Risky Business. Kate Winslet was unforgettable in the historic movie, Titanic. Lydia de Vega’s star shone bright when she won in the Southeast Asian Games in the 1980s, becoming the fastest woman in Asia. Lea Salonga won the Tony Awards for her role in Miss Saigon, the first Asian to win the prestigious award. President Corazon Aquino’s defining moment was the peaceful revolution in 1986. Aung San Suu Kyi made her an international icon of democracy when she fought against the government of Myanmar and awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. Jose Rizal’s death in 1898 pegged his heroism. Andres Bonifacio led the KKK against the Spanish government in the Philippines. The saints in their martyrdom. Jesus in his crucifixion.
The first reading defined Joshua as the fitting successor of Moses. The passages intend to exalt Joshua in the sight of all Israel. But Joshua’s success mirrors Yahweh’s greatness. At Joshua’s leadership, the conquest shows that the living God is the Lord of the whole earth, who is responsible for bringing Israel into the land. With the ark of the covenant leading the procession, it shows that the Lord is powerful. And just as the Lord brought the exiled people in Egypt, Yahweh can bring anyone who are lost and “exiled” back home. The ark is a sign of the Lord’s presence; the distance that the people keep from the ark emphasizes the respect and deference they must show the Lord. Holiness therefore prepares us for a Divine intervention; an experience of something extraordinary. Thus purification rites, abstinence, fasting, prayer have always been part of these preparations. In addition, just as Moses divided the waters of the Red Sea for the people to cross, Joshua performs the same thing at the Jordan.
The greatness of every Christian is defined by the person’s ability to forgive repeatedly. Not just once, but seventy-times-seven as Jesus said in the Gospel. The number seven has a special significance: it indicates infinity. Thus, seventy-times-seven is more than just infinite. Meaning: as many as people hurt us; as repeatedly as people wrong us; as often as they insult us. Think of the people whom we have highly esteemed. Tom Cruise was bullied in school; his deep regret is his difficult childhood with his father. Kate Winslet in her younger years with a man 12 years her senior and her deep insecurity and dread of being thought an “arrogant young actor.” President Aquino has to deal with the murderers of her husband, Senator Ninoy Aquino. Aung San Suu Kyi with those who convicted her to house arrest. Pope John Paul II forgave the person who attempted to assassinate him. Church leaders asked for forgiveness for the sins of the past. Jesus pardoned those who nailed him to the cross. To authenticate our love for our enemies, we must possess the character that enables us to forgive repeatedly. By doing so, we become peacemakers. And Jesus said that the Kingdom of God belongs to them. And should we forgive? Because God forgives. When people say, “AMDG, for the greater glory of God” they sometimes miss the point: we give glory to God when we mirror His character.
It is almost often that opportunities of greatness come our way. Unfortunately, we usually miss them — because we stoop to less dignifying acts. These are the times when we are challenged to become better than who we are today. Temptations are tests: they are to help build our character by not yielding to them. When somebody does bad things to us, the greatest revenge is to become better than them — better in character and skills. It is the time when our lives have to show that there is a higher moral plane where people with dignity belong. Below this level, lives a specie of a less sophisticated character.