Second Ordinary Sunday Year A
The economists tell us that times are going to get harder and harder for us here in Malaysia. But amidst inflating prices, competition is only going to be more rife than ever with more people fighting to get a piece of the ever-shrinking pie. So the only people who would ultimately survive this boiling economic climate are the fittest of the lot.
This is precisely why society speaks a lot of the survival of the fittest. Those who are not tough enough eventually show themselves to be losers. We are nurtured to exalt mottos like "Born to win" and "We are the champions". Nobody likes the idea of being only second best. Strive to always be the best because nobody dares to mess with the best. If you fail to be the best, you will gain no respect.
One might say that humility ceases to be a virtue when survival is an issue. Of utmost importance is success, and only when one is successful that the virtue of humility can be cultivated. In success, you show yourself to be humble only to be even more respected.
The Gospel reading this Sunday portrays a man whose words show a strange sense of self-understanding. One may say that he is the proverbial loser who never sees himself as a winner. Imagine yourself being born to stay in someone else's shadow for the rest of your life with an embargo on the right to greatness placed upon you such that recognition will never be yours! John would forever be playing second fiddle, and the message of his life would be "I'm not the hero!" His life would forever be pointing to somebody else and extolling His greatness. In exchange for that, his remuneration would be that he would get to live in the desert and feed on locusts and wild honey. How is that for a healthy self-esteeem?
Embracing the Gospel is not about us. It is entirely about Christ. Many people make the mistake of believing in Christ but practising the faith in an entirely narcissistic way. They refuse to play second fiddle to Christ. Every time their interests are threatened, they say in their hearts "I will not serve!" (submit). Our Church Fathers tell us that one of God's choicest angels in heaven once uttered these words "Non serviam!" ("I will not serve!"), and he became the entity that we know today as "satan". To refuse to play second fiddle to Christ and to refuse His will is to embrace the very attitude of the devil.
We are reminded today, in our faith, to spend the rest of our lives gazing entirely at the only One worthy of our deepest adoration. The Catholic faith is, unfortunately, not about ourselves. One of our bishops frequently says, "We have to stop naval gazing". Paradoxically, we find life only when we learn to die to ourselves.
Ask John the Baptist, "How can I have life?", and he would say, "Certainly not by looking at me!" And then he would point to Jesus and exclaim, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"