Margin of Error – Arnel Aquino, SJ

Luke 12:35-40, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

When Michael Siaron’s remains were being entombed in a poor man’s cemetery last week, his mother screamed and sobbed. Over 2 weeks ago, we saw on the newspaper a picture reminiscent of the Pietà. In the middle of the street, an awfully young woman cradled a dead 29-yr-old man, that was Michael. I’m sure many Filipinos shook their heads in sympathy. I bet many also thought, “’Yan, buti nga. One less drug pusher.” But when I saw his mother on tv, screaming, sobbing, and finally fainting, I realized that like any mother, she must have had dreams for her son, humble that these might be. She had enough faith and enough hope in him and his life, even if life was what you call a shanty on stilts teetering on a creek of reeking garbage in Pasay.

Mahirap talaga siguro maging magulang. While your kids are still with you, you do everything to raise them the best way you know, you teach them the ABCs of right from wrong, you bring them to church to shake hands and be friends with Mr God. (Dad used an expression for all this; he said: “Ginagawa namin ang lahat para hindi kayo lumaking paurong.” Dad, hindi po ako lumaki, period.) But once your children are out in the world, you take it by faith that they stay on track. You take it by faith that they can and will choose right from wrong they way you taught them. You take it by faith that they’ll always be friends with Mr. God. You take many things by faith when raising children whom you love most in the world and, like we always say, you just “hope for the best.”

Faith and hope have something in common, in that there’s always that chance of being frustrated, that possibility of it all ending up very wrong like it did Michael Siaron. The point is, when we talk about having faith in someone or hoping in something, that margin of error, of uncertainty is part of the deal, that chance of dashed dreams. Without that risk, we wouldn’t call it faith or hope, but rather, certitude, sureness, full guarantee—where there is no room for insecurity or anxiety. But when we commit to a reality greater than ourselves & beyond our control, then we take a lot of things by faith and hope— and risk being let down. But, going back to Mrs. Siaron, did that margin of error ever stop her from believing and hoping in her son? No. Kaya nga gano’n na lang ang pagtangis niya sa sementeryo. “Sandali lang, sandali lang!” she shrieked as they buried her son. And we understand that, we get that. No margin of error or chance of frustration could thwart a mother’s faith and hope in her children. Because that’s what love does. Love makes us believe and keeps us hoping well past and against the odds.

Now, you could read all of today’s reading under the lens of faith and hope. Abraham knew nothing of what awaited him where God asked him to go. But at God’s bidding, he up and went. And God took care of him. The Hebrew slaves in the first Passover, they knew nothing of what awaited them in the wilderness, let alone what freedom meant. But at God’s bidding, they up and went. And God took care of them. In both cases, the margin of frustration was as vast as the desert they were about to cross. But no margin of frustration could outweigh God’s constant care for them. So they believed. They risked. Today’s Gospel—it’s often read as an end of the world parable. But for a change, how about taking it as a lovely story about servants deeply devoted to their loving master, a master in whom they’ve put their faith, and wait for, and hope would come soon so they could serve him again. But tonight might be yet another watchful night with no sign of him, like the many past nights they waited in vigil for nothing. But watch for him still, they still did…until finally, their master, loving and beloved, emerged from the darkness.

At each end of the school year, I persistently wonder if my students ever learned anything from class that they could use in real life. But more often, I wonder if they ever got to love God more deeply through theology. Teaching theology does mean teaching the faith, yes. But I shudder at the thought that my students learned to just draw lines between what’s orthodox and what’s heretical, yet not have fallen any more deeply in love with God. Because I do take pains convincing them that God is not the wrathful, calculating, sentencing heavenly usurer that many Catholics heavily paint God to be—but rather, a tender, kindly, self-outpouring God of limitless forgiveness. Just the same, at the end of the year, I doubt up here (head) if my students even remember that. I have faith and hope down here (chest) though, that they would. But like I say, in faith and hope hangs that margin of error in this vast desert of uncertainty. Gladly, that margin doesn’t stop us, does it? What keeps us “faith-ing” and hoping in people we love is not the uncertainty over how they’d turn out,  but the certainty that we love them enough to do our best.

Here is the point I wish to make. Having said all of this, can you imagine, therefore, or believe, if you can even begin to fathom…how much faith and hope God puts in us? Yes, we’re taught to believe and hope in God. But don’t we think that the Master believes and hopes in his servants, too, that they’ll be there for him? Sure, he does! Oh, there is no margin of error in this case—God knows with certitude that we cannot always be trusted, that we will stray, that we will put ourselves on the line for the stupidest of things, and that we will risk losing everything including the light in our souls in favor of darkness. Yet, here is God, still cradling us in his arms in an everyday Pietà, still holding up his dreams for us, unwaveringly putting his faith and hope in us like no other. The priests always say, “Have faith in God, hope in God, make your faith strong, don’t lack faith, don’t be hopeless.” But can you imagine how vast and steadfast God’s faith and hope in us is, to still keep us in his arms in spite of ourselves? In a very real sense, our Master really does more waiting for us, doesn’t he, than we ever do for him? Like Jesus tells Ignacio de Loyola in the movie: “Remember, I loved you first.” Mas maganda sa Tagalog: nauna na tayong minahal ng Diyos. ‘Yon ang pinakamahalaga: na nauna na tayong minahal ng Dios.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Great message when it comes to theology. Thank you for sharing this one.


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