Monday, August 4, 2008

PRAYER SERVICE at ST. PAUL'S CATHOLIC CHURCH, July 27, 2008, Hualien City, Taiwan ROC

I delivered this homily during the prayer on July 27, 2008 at St. Paul's Catholic Church. This homily is based on the Sunday readings: First Reading, I Kings 3-5, 7-12; Second Reading, Romans 8:28-30; Gospel, Matthew 13:44-52. Fr. Richard is still in France, Fr. Vedrenne is in Vietnam for a short visit. Therefore in the absence of priest to lead the mass, we hold prayer service instead which I lead.

I am sure everyone of you here is familiar with the television program Wish Ko Lang (Just My Wish). It is the first wish-granting show on Philippine television aired over GMA Channel 7 hosted by Vicky Morales. It is a very popular show because an actual wish from the viewers sent through mail can be granted and the story is featured in the show. The wishes range from a wheelchair for a paralytic husband to a major heart surgery for an ailing mother; from finding a long lost child to searching for a perfect match as husband or wife. In the Philippines where poverty is widespread and frustration in life is experienced by many, the show Wish Ko Lang offers some relief and entertainment as well to the suffering masses.

How about you, brothers and sisters, if granted the rare chance to make a wish, a wish that will be surely and immediately be granted at this very moment, what would that wish be? I bet most of you here will wish to win the jackpot prize in a lottery draw so that you can leave Taiwan at once and spend all your money with your family members back home. Or perhaps, some of the ladies here will wish to meet and marry a very rich and a very handsome Taiwanese gentleman, and then raise up a big and happy family here in Taiwan. Wow, what fairy tale story!

But as the popular saying goes, be careful what you wish for, because sometimes, our wishes when finally granted, do not necessarily bring happiness to us but instead they bring tragedy and misery. We have heard news items in Philippines about someone who won the jackpot in the lottery draw and after a few days, ended up being robbed, kidnapped, or killed. We have also heard news of Filipina women who married foreigners and after a while, ended up being a beaten and battered wives living in extreme miseries and sufferings. Or perhaps some of you here are now regretting so much to have wished working here in Taiwan. See, your dreams came true!
As we listen to the first reading today, from the First Book of Kings, we can understand Solomon’s answer to God. Solomon, as we all know is the king of who succeeded his father David to the throne. When God said to Solomon, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon did not have any second thought, he wished for the best that he could wish for and said, “Give your servant, therefore an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of your?” Solomon did not wish for wealth or power, instead, he wished and asked for a gift that would serve others and help the people under his rule. He was very careful and prudent in making a wish.

Now, each of us can also ask this question of himself or herself: What would I choose, what would I wish for? If God were to promise you the same as He promised Solomon, what would you choose, what would you wish for?

The Gospel today tells us an answer to God’s question to Solomon: we can ask God for the Kingdom of Heaven. If we look just at the first reading and the Gospel, we can see that the deepest wisdom of our lives is to choose to live in the Kingdom of God.
The gospel calls the Kingdom of God as the ultimate desire and the ultimate wish of the human heart. The Gospel says “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew chapter 6, verse 33). But where is the Kingdom of God? Where can I find it? Dear Brothers and Sisters, the Kingdom of God is, it is in the midst of us, it is within us. We can find the Kingdom of God if we let God reign in our hearts, if we let God rule our lives, if we let God take control of our homes, if we let God lead our society, and if we enthrone God as the King of world. Truly then I say to you, The Kingdom of God is here and now, in the midst of us and within us.

And when you find The Kingdom of God, what else do you find? Dear Brothers and Sisters, the one who finds the kingdom of God finds everything desirable, he finds everything pleasing, he finds everything good. That is why The Kingdom of God is compared to hidden treasure in a field which a man finds, then goes and sells all that he has and buys the field. Or a precious pearl which a merchant finds, then goes and sells everything he has and buy this one pearl. In fact, these parables invite us not only to seek first the kingdom of God but to seek only the kingdom because with the kingdom of God comes every other good thing.

Brothers and sisters, the personal value we put on God and the things of God must be of the highest order. The men in the gospel parable sold everything to obtain what they value. That fact is significant. They didn’t hold anything back, they made total commitment. We need to make total commitment too in valuing and treasuring the Kingdom of God. We enthrone God as our King and absolute ruler who controls our lives. As the saying goes, “What you value controls you.” Many people value and treasure money more than anything else, and it controls them, and leads them to unsatiable hunger for more. Many people value and treasure their passion and wordly desire more than anything else, and it controls them, and leads them to scattered lives. Many people value and treasure their friends, partners and loved ones, and it controls them, and leads them to frustrations and disillusionment. We seek, we value, and we treasure the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and it controls our lives, and it leads us to happy and abundant life, here on earth, and in heaven.

When we pray the Lord’s prayer, we say,“...Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Yes, my brothers and sisters, the Kingdom of God is right here right now, at this very place, at this very moment because we subject ourselves to God’s rule and control. We say it in our prayer, and we also express it in a beautiful song, “Ikaw ang nagturo ng tamang landasin, sa puso at aking damdamin. Dinggin ang papuri ng bawat dalangin, dahil sa’yo, lupa man ay langit na rin (Because of You, even the earth is heaven as well.)”
And the Kingdom of God does not end here on earth, though it is here and now, it is also there and then, right there in heaven with all the angels and saints, and with Mary our Virgin Mother. It is only then and there that we can obtain the fullness and completeness of the Kingdom of God, with Jesus Christ our Lord and with the Holy Spirit in the glorious life eternal and life everlasting. AMEN.