God’s salu-salo homily 18th Sunday in ordinary time

GOD’S WORD TODAY - Manuel V. Francisco, S.J. -

The Kingdom: Salu-salo para sa Lahat

In this Sunday’s reading from Isaiah and adjacent chapters, Yahweh promises to bring His exiled people home and to restore Israel to her former glory. To concretize the liberation and restoration that Yahweh will bring about, the Lord promises abundant food, wine and milk for the hungry and thirsty. The salu-salo or banquet to which all are invited is a symbol of God’s plentitude, all-inclusive love, and promise of a better future. This theme is echoed in the Psalm today, which praises the God who feeds us and satisfies all our desires.

In our Gospel reading, Jesus feeds a multitude of 5,000, not counting the women and children, after curing the sick all day long. In His ministry of healing the sick and feeding the hungry, Jesus embodies the compassion and mercy of God. Moreover, the 12 baskets of left-over underscores the abundance of God’s love, the magnanimity of God who feeds us beyond our needs.

In short, the banquet that God prepares for the hungry is a pervasive biblical image of the Kingdom, of what God has in store for us. This Kingdom, which Jesus proclaims, envisages communion with God and one another, the fulfillment of all manner of needs, and equality with one another and before God.

The Kingdom: Critique of Society and the Church

Not only does the Kingdom proclaim God’s promised future; the Kingdom is also a critique of the present order of things. In other words, the image of the Kingdom serves as a norm or standard by which we can assess our society and the Church. Are the goods of society shared equitably with all? Do all have a place and a voice in the community? Do all have the opportunity to develop themselves, provide for their loved ones, and experience the fullness of life that God intended for all?

It is so easy for us Christians to criticize our government and society as characterized by inequality, corruption and injustice. While all these may be true, it is equally important to subject the Church and our parish to the same standards and values of the Kingdom. Are our parish employees paid decent wages and provided benefits? Or do we justify substandard wages, “Trabahong pansimbahan naman, eh.” Is authority centralized in the person of the parish priest or is it shared with the laity through the Parish Council? Do parishes composed of rich and poor communities develop programs to reverse hunger and joblessness among their poorer members? Or are such parishes more concerned with processions and social gatherings?

The values of the Kingdom are evidenced in the Eucharist, which embodies God’s hospitality to all, God’s fulfillment of our deepest hungers, and egalitarianism. And so during the Mass, we experience a homogenization of the rich and poor, powerful and weak, educated and illiterate, healthy and ill, pious and sinful as everyone gathers around the table of the Lord and as everyone is invited to partake of the Lord’s Body.

However, when we reserve special places of honor for the rich and powerful or announce their presence, we destroy the symbolism of the Kingdom in the Eucharistic celebration; we undermine the prophetic voice of the Eucharist that considers everyone equal before the Lord.

Moreover, how we treat one another, what we do with our resources, what we fight for, what we concern ourselves with outside the Eucharist, inform us whether or not our communities are indeed signs of the Kingdom.

The Kingdom: A Communal Task Empowered by the Spirit

Many years ago, Bro. Rem Arganda introduced himself to me.  He said he belonged to the Spring in the Desert Community of OFWs in Saudi Arabia.  He asked for my help to record the charismatic songs their community had written and had been singing during their weekly fellowship.

Every Sunday, the community would subdivide itself into smaller groups that would gather in the homes of their members. They would gather around a circle, read the Gospel, and share their reflections with one another. I asked him if they ever got into trouble with the authorities. He said they had a way of dealing with the police who would be suspicious of the number of cars parked outside the homes of host members. As the police knocked on the door, they would break out into song, “Happy birthday to you.” They would then take out the cake and offer the police to join their salu-salo. The police would apologize for interrupting their birthday celebration and leave them in peace. And as soon as the police departed, they would return the cake to the refrigerator, gather once more in a circle and proceed with their Bible Sharing.

These OFWs in the desert found a way to celebrate their Faith. Amidst the dry sands of the Middle East, these courageous Filipinos experienced the Lord quenching their deepest thirsts and empowering them to quench the thirst of others. 

The salu-salo is a biblical image of the Kingdom, of what God promises us. This Kingdom is not only a future reality; it is a present reality whenever and wherever we build communities of solidarity and egalitarianism, whenever and wherever we animate communities to provide food for the hungry and drink for the thirsty.







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