4 Pentecost, Father's Day

The Rev. Noel Bordador

Speaking of Father's Day, I have two special fathers in my life one a priest, a spiritual father in God, and the other, of course, is my biological father. The first: Father Rex (or Padi Rex as he is called) is an priest of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines and greatly admire him. I had the fortune of serving under him last year for a few months, and had a great deal to learn from him. He is not only a priest but also a vocal defender of the rights of the poor, and political dissidents who have been and are who are being persecuted by the government also for their vociferous advocacy for justice.  Often criticized as a meddlesome priest who interferes in politics, he has earned not a few enemies, in fact, has been identified in the military "order of battle." When people are listed under such order, they can be targetted for covert harassment, enforced disappearance by abduction or worse, death. A father, a husband and a grandfather, Padi Rex is well aware that his life is in danger. Yet, he goes on with his work in obedience to the command of the Gospel to defend the defenseless.

Less heroic but nevertheless influential in my life is my own biological father. One story particularly stands out. My father used to work as a lawyer for the dictatorial regime of the Marcoses in the 1970s, and his job was to defend the government's policy of evicting the poor who have been illegally squatting in lands that do not belong to them. My father struggled in his job not only because he wasn't a fan of the Marcoses, he did not like to evict people from their homes even though the land did not belong to them. He knew the squatters did not have anywhere to go, they did not even have money to eat much less to pay rent or buy their own home in a nation with a severe poverty. As a child, I would hear him pour out and share his struggles of conscience with my mom. And one day he announced that he had taken an early retirement from government service. I knew well the reasons.

I mention these two fathers for they taught me something that I carry with me. Doing the right thing, doing the good thing, doing the ethical and moral thing is not always appreciated. Sometimes doing the moral thing entails some risk. Sometimes the risks might be annoying but minimal, or sometimes the risk might be great.

The Gospel today is particularly challenging for us to hear. In his service to God's people, Jesus predicted that he would encounter a great resistance to his work, in fact, even predicted his own death from the hands of those who opposed his work. His work in behalf of the downtrodden was not welcome by those in religious and politcal power who felt that his work undermined and called into question their ability to govern justly. They felt their power or their hold on power greatly threatened by Jesus who- though he loved everybody- sided with those who are the least in society.  
   
He then issued a warning that just as he, the Master, would suffer for doing what is good and just, those who fwanted to follow him would also be subject to the same treatment. "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."  Obedience to the Gospel, doing good, service to God's people, working for justice can be costly to you.

When we were baptized, we received not only the promise of an eternal inheritance, but we also received a mission that as we go about our lives, we will be loving, we will respect the dignity of each human person that we meet, and we will work for justice. It would do well for us to look at the Baptismal Covenant in the Book of Common Prayer and read the promises we have made. If we truly live out these promises, sooner or later we will encounter some difficulties and challenges along the way in living them out. It might not cost us our lives as it did for Jesus, but, nevertheless, it might still be costly for us.

Let's look at a few example. Sometimes, for the interest of making profit, we might be pressured by our superiors to put money above human needs, or to be less than honest in dealing with our business associates or clients; and resisting these pressures might cost us a promotion, a raise or our job. Our need to be liked by others might make us less truthful with others, and we tell people only things they want to hear rather than be honest just to win their approval. The fear of loss of affection and love, ,ight lead us to deny the truth about us, denying ourselves to be ourselves. We present a mask or facade because we fear that people are not going to like us or love us because of who we are. We might be tempted to shirk to our responsibility to help those in need because it might cost us time, money or even open us up to ridicule. We might support unjust and inhumane policies of our country- either here and abroad- because we don't want to be labeled unpatriotic. These are just a few examples when we're faced with the temptation to do the less honorable and just thing.  And it is hard to be confronted with those words of Jesus to do the right, the just, and loving thing when it would be costly to us. But he invites us, he ask of us to accept the cost-  for a higher cause of the Gospel.

Everytime we gather around the Lord's Table, we are invited to share in the life of the crucified and risen Christ, and the supreme act of sharing comes when we are said to eat of the Body and drink of the Blood of the Christ really present in the Bread and Wine. This participation is said to be already our participation in his "new and unending life in him" (Book of Common Prayer, Eucharistic Prayer A, Rite II), yet at the same time, it is also a sharing in his suffering and sacrifice of the Cross which we must lived out in our daily lives until we come to our eternal inheritance. In this union with the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, we offer ourselves as a sacrifice to God- to be used by him in his work of bringing forth goodness, and love and justice in this broken world, costly that self-offering might be to us.  In the words of the Book of Common Prayer: "And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee..." (Eucharistic Prayer, Rite I) In this gathering around the Lord's Table, we renew our pledge to carry out the living sacrifice of the crucified and risen Christ in our lives for God- to carry our Cross and follow Jesus.