Beyond Limits
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

As I write this, the waters of the Rio Grande river are again rising. The marshlands are overflowing. Thousands of people are affected by the floods. Those who have returned to their homes when the waters receded a month ago are again leaving for evacuation centers. On top of that, the evacuees from the recent fighting between the government troops and the rebels have yet to stabilize their broken lives. Donors are again being tapped to share their resources for relief and rehabilitation. Given the repetitive nature of natural and man-made calamities in our area of the country, even generous donors reach their limit. “Donor fatigue” may set in.

Action starter: “Ut unum sint.” May they be one.

It is not only donors who are affected. Even peace advocates and people engaged in relief and rehabilitation sigh, “Is there no end to this?” It is in situations like this we can gain some inspiration from this Sunday’s readings. We are called to go beyond what we perceive as our natural limits. Our God is one whose generosity is limitless (Mt. 20:1-17). God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). Even adverse situations, like that of Paul in his prison cell, could be occasions to live in Christ (Phil. 1:20)

The authors of the biblical books were people of flesh and blood. They lived their lives within the ups and downs of their particular history. Isaiah was writing to the Israelites as they were returning from exile in Babylon and they were rebuilding their lives. They were evacuees or “bakwits”. Paul was writing his letter to the Philippians while he was in prison (most probably in Ephesus). The evangelist Matthew describes a situation in the parable of Jesus where people were jobless and were waiting in the marketplace to be hired. Matthew was living at a time when the Romans were harshly imposing their dominion over Israel, to the point of destroying the temple in Jerusalem. The biblical writers wrote of hope, restoration, perseverance, and God’s unfailing love, even as they faced the harsh realities of their own historical situations.

We who live in this part of Mindanao have gone through tough times. We have been through the wars of the early 1970’s. We have lived through the earthquake and tsunami of 1976 that leveled the city and washed away coastal villages. We have survived the droughts of El Nino in the 80’s and 90’s . We have enjoyed sporadic peace and lived through sporadic wars in the past thirty years. Just recently we have experienced massive floods as incessant rains brought water from five provinces to the Maguindanao river basin. We have survived.

I remember one advertising line of a tire brand, “When the going gets tough, the tough keeps going”. We have been through tough times and we have been toughened. May we however retain our gentleness and sensitivity to one another’s needs as we gather once more our energies to deal with life’s challenges. We invoke God’s blessing on this land and all its people of whatever tribe or religion.