Jesus, the ordinary
GOD'S WORD TODAY - Ruben M. Tanseco S.J. (The Philippine Star) - July 8, 2012 - 12:00am

The townmates of Jesus looked upon him as simply one of them. Ordinary, poor, devoid of wealth, power, and reputation. They expected a prophet to be extraordinary and spectacular. “Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” (From today’s Gospel reading, Mk. 6: 3). Jesus felt sorry for their unconverted hearts. “He was amazed at their lack of faith” (v. 6).

It was in the person of Paul in today’s Second Reading that a real conversion to Christ was incarnated. He experienced God’s loving power precisely in his weakness. “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12: 9-10). He was assured by the Lord that with his grace, “power is made perfect in weakness.” Strength in weakness. The extraordinary in the ordinary.

This is what we witness in so many among our Filipino individuals, couples, and families all over the Philippines. They live very ordinary lives, and yet they are so dedicated and faithful in what they do from day to day, month to month, year to year. Every now and then, a minor or major tragedy comes along, but their capacity for resiliency is just amazing. What makes the ordinary extraordinary is their deep love for family and their strong faith in God. God, after all, is Love Incarnate. This is what makes so many ordinary Filipinos extraordinary. They are no less than small, quiet, living miracles. In their very deprivations and weaknesses are their strengths. The words of St. Paul become deeply meaningful: “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

Let me be more concrete by singling out our very own telephone operator and porter here at Loyola House of Studies, our Jesuit community of scholastics and priests. She will turn 60 this month, her retirement year, and has been in this ordinary job for no less than 37 years. She sacrificed her own personal life (she is still single) and further studies to be able to help her mother and siblings, being the eldest of ten children. Her father abandoned them many years ago. I asked her to express her feelings at this point in her life, and what follows is a part of what she wrote me:

“Nagtrabaho ako para matulungan ko ang Nanay ko na itaguyod ang aking mga kapatid. Sa aking pagtatrabaho ay walang pag-aalinlangan na tulungan ang aking mga kapatid para makapag-aral at hindi ko na inisip ang pangsariling pangangailangan.

Sa buong 37 taon na pagtatrabaho dito sa Loyola House of Studies ay tumatag ang aking pananampalataya sa Diyos. Dito ay natuto akong manalangin araw-araw. Dumami ang aking mga kaibigan na itinuring nila akong kapamilya. Sa totoo lang, hindi ko iniisip ang pag-retiro ko. Hinahayaan ko lang na dumating ito at magpasalamat sa Panginoon para dito at sa mga taon pa niyang ibibigay sa akin. Sa kanya ay humuhugot ako ng lakas at tatag.

Ito ang kaloob ng Panginoon sa aking buhay. Maglingkod nang walang hinihinging kapalit. AMEN.” And her name is no less than Pilipina!

Now let us move to the canonization of the simple and ordinary, which Jesus incarnated in his very person and was strongly rejected by his worldly townmates. This coming October 2012 will be the canonization to Sainthood of our very own Filipino teenager of the 17th century, Pedro Calungsod. What an inspiration he is to our young Filipinos of today, who are constantly bombarded by individualism, materialism, and secularism from Western media and godless, technological culture.

What is outstanding was Pedro’s heroic dedication as the teenager sacristan and assistant to Fr. Luis de San Vitores (now Blessed Luis) in their missionary work in different places in the Marianas Islands. Simple, ordinary work done in an extraordinary, self-sacrificing manner all the way to the end, when Pedro and Fr. Luis were both killed by the devilish, anti-Christian forces. All this and more are narrated in a recent publication of Paulines Philippines and authored by Fr. Catalino G. Arevalo, SJ, entitled Pedro Calungsod. Young Visayan Proto-Martyr. Let me end by quoting him in part:

“What a wonderful gift to the youth of our land, at a time when our faith seeks to affirm the realities it believes in…. Pedro Calungsod’s canonization should be an hour of rejoicing and inspiration for the Church in our country, and a summons to authenticity and courage, a summons which his death at the dawn of manhood rings as a trumpet call in the depths of our hearts, there where our dreams lie, waiting to be re-awakened, waiting to come true” (pp. 56-57). 

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