Gospel reflections – 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
7 February 2021
This Year of the Cow, may we turn our ‘WOES’ into ‘WOWS’
“Gong xi fa cai!” Three days to go and it will already be CNY… Chinese New Year. And it’s gonna be the Year of the Cow this time. Good bye rat. Hello cow. Rat made us live like him last 2020, in darkness, in hiding. Now, may cow make us live like him. In what? Read on to find out….
Back in my country, not many celebrate this festively. But here in Malaysia, in Kuching… oh, it’s a big deal. In all restaurants and malls especially, you hear CNY songs again and again as early as end of December. All around people have been so busy doing general cleaning of their homes. Everything must be spick and span before CNY. You hear so often everywhere either the sound of a power hose or a grass cutter, a prelude to the coming soon colorful and pompous fireworks and firecrackers. And of course, everybody’s excited for the CNY goodies, oranges and ang pow. Don’t feel sad and surprised though if this time what you’ll find inside your ang pow is not a RM50 bill but a facemask instead. Oh no! You’ll surely hate Covid even more, if that happens.
But I’m sure CNY will be quite different this year, just like Christmas and Gawai. And all because of Covid once again. No dragon dance this year, huhu! No dinner in hotels and restaurants this time, huhuhu! No open houses… which means no free delicious meals, huhuhuhu! I saw a meme that says… CNY this year doesn’t mean “Chinese New Year”. It now means “Celebrate Next Year”, huhuhuhuhu!
But seriously.… Celebrate CNY though there is still pandemic, will you or will you not?
Probably, you still would, right? In a different way compared to before, for sure. But still, you would celebrate it, right?
Makes me, us, deeply and sincerely wonder…. “If that is how eager I am in celebrating CNY, if that is how valuable CNY is to me… do I also feel that eager to celebrate God, His love, His goodness, His salvation? Do I also value God, His good news of salvation, that much?” I so wish I really do. Or better still… I hope that I actually do so far even more.
God, His love and life, His goodness and good news, His gift of salvation… I will celebrate this year. And not just this year, but year after year. And not just year after year but month after month, day after day, day in and day out. And not just celebrate it, but preach it, share it, to more and more people, in more and more places, through more and more ways. And no Covid nor whatsoever can and will stop nor delay me from doing so. May I join St Paul in professing in today’s Sunday readings — “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.” (1 Cor 9:16…). Yes, woe to me if for whatever reason or circumstance, I fail to, and worse, choose to not preach God and His love. Woe to me!
Inspired by the powerful example of Jesus in today’s Gospel (Mk 1:29-39), let us also live our days both in intimacy with God and in doing good to people through our works of charity and words of preaching.
We see here Jesus’ three “PASSIONS”… not just things He likes and loves, but things He is so eager about, things He values so much, things He can not live without:
• His passion for PRAYER…. “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where He prayed.” Though super busy, he spent quality and quantity time for prayer.
• His passion for COMPASSION…. Simon’s mother-in-law who was so sick with fever, He approached, grasped her hand, helped her up and cured. The ill and the possessed, He healed them all.
• His passion for PREACHING… He declares, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”
During these quarantine months, I admit, I have grown big in my liking for these three things…. First is ‘plants’. You should see my garden here in our Foochow Road home. I feel like a trying-hard ‘plantito’ now. Second is ‘jogging’. You should see me in MBKS park. I feel like a trying-harder ‘health buff’ too. Just skip looking at my stomach. And third is ‘Netflix’. You should see the list of movies I’ve seen. I feel like a no-need-to-try-hard film critic.
And these three, in contrast with Jesus’ three passions, make me feel mortified. While Jesus is so passionate about prayer, compassion and preaching… here am I, a priest, supposed to be His ‘alter Christus’, engrossed only in plants, jogging and Netflix. And I try to excuse myself saying, “Don’t blame me. Blame Covid for all these.”
Really? Seriously? While for so many, Covid made them pray more desperately, Covid made them care more intensely, Covid made them preach love in word and deed more dearly… here is Fr Ramon blaming Covid for making him spend hours gardening, jogging, neflixing. Poor Fr Ramon! Or maybe the more fitting phrase for him is “Woe to you, Fr Ramon!”
As today’s readings have become a wake-up call for me… to be more passionate about prayer, compassion and preaching because I am most passionate about God and His Gospel… may they also serve their purpose for you.
Again, in the spirit of CNY which ushers in the Year of the Cow, may we be like cows more and more this year…
• Like cows that are revered as sacred creatures, may we be more holy and spiritual through our prayer.
• Like cows that nourishes the world with their own milk and meat, may we be more caring and life-giving through our compassion.
• And like the cows that mooo and mooo and mooo, symbols of hardwork and perseverance, may we preach and preach and preach God’s Gospel in our words and actions, letting no Covid or whatsoever to make us feel lazy or afraid.
Because if we don’t or if we won’t… then “Woe to us!”
But if we do and if we would… or at least even just desire to and try to… then “Wow to us!”
In God’s grace, may we turn our “woes” into “wows”.
Fr Ramon Borja, SDB
Commission for Youth