Matthew 4:12-23, Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
I don’t exactly remember how that conversation started. But I will remember for a long time what dad said to me around those days after we laid mom to rest. “Anak, wala kaming gaanong maiiwan sa inyong magkakapatid ha? (Son, we won’t have much to leave you, ok?)” He sounded like he was asking for permission; go figure. “Pero sana naging mabuting magulang kami ng mommy sa inyo. (But I hope we have been good parents to you)” I don’t know what I felt then. His words seemed to make my heart burst with pride and, at the same time, break it into many little pieces. Because I knew then that these were parting words from a father who did not have much to hand over to his children. My dad has never been at ease with expressing feelings, let alone wishes and dreams. But mom’s passing must’ve pumped these words right out of his life’s deep well which he realized wasn’t even half full with any material wealth.
Now, that desire, that wish of a father or a mother to be able to hand over something to the children, something that will last them long after the parents are no longer around, that desire comes from very deep in a parent’s heart, doesn’t it? T the second thought, I shouldn’t be surprised. Because even single people or those who don’t have children, they also feel that need to hand over something, somehow, to the world that they know will outlive them. Some of us priests print a book of our homilies, for example. Some endow a scholarship fund. Some of us put up statues of saints here and there. Some even go on a building spree, and then some remodel the building to put their own handprint on it! And some…some write music! Anything—anything we could hand over to this generation—from which we all will disappear whether we like it or not. Now, when the lot of us don’t have much to hand over by way of material gifts—like my dad—we wish we’d be remembered, at the very least, for kindness, for goodness, for our trying our best to take care of family, and to care for friends. “Sana naging mabuting magulang kami,” as dad puts it in shorthand. Dad doesn’t have much in life. So, being “mabuting magulang” will have to do.
The first line of today’s Gospel goes: “When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.” See, there’s something lost in translation with the word “arrested”. The original Greek does not use that word. It uses the word paredothei, from the root-word, paradidomai, meaning, “to hand over,” “to deliver to someone something to keep,” “to place into the hands of another.” So, the first line reads better this way: “Jesus withdrew to Galilee on hearing that John had been handed over.” And what a crucial phrase that is, because there’s going to be a lot of paradidomai as Jesus’ life unfolds, a lot of handing over. See how it begins with John the Baptist. He doesn’t put up much of a fight when he’s handed over to be imprisoned. Why? Because he has already handed over his mission to Jesus. And what’s the first thing Jesus does as he begins public ministry? He calls a bunch of new friends who do not know him from Adam. He then teaches them and shows them the mission. Why? Because eventually, he will hand over the ministry to them when he himself is delivered over to the hands of his enemies. And when they hang him on a cross, Jesus finally hands over his everything, back to the Father. Handing over is a characteristic action of the Messiah’s life because it is a life-giving characteristic identity of our God. The Father handed over to humanity his son. Ipinamana ng Ama sa atin ang kanyang anak. And the son, in turn, kept handing himself over to humanity…dahil nagmana ang anak sa Ama!
One fear that aging parents have, including my dad, is that the gift they leave behind might not last the children too long, especially when there’s not much to leave behind to begin with. For anything can happen—an irresponsible son might blow it in a few bad deals, or a daughter might fall sick and need expensive treatment, or, most commonly, the in-law’s might presumptuously entitle themselves to what doesn’t rightly belong to them. But I’m happy to report to you, though, that most parents I know don’t care so much for properties they leave behind, as much as they really care to hand over values they hoped the children have learned from them: like kindness, magnanimity of heart, love for the less fortunate like yaya & manong, mutual forgiveness, and keeping the family united. “Huwag kayong mag-aaway ng dahil lang sa pera (please don’t fight over money),” I’ve heard many parents say. “Magpatawaran kayo tulad ng pagpapatawad namin sa inyo (forgive each other). Huwag n’yong pababayaan ang isa’t isa (don’t abandon each other). Tulungan n’yo kung may kapatid kayong naghihirap (help your siblings in need). Magsimba kayo palagi, magpasalamat sa Diyos, mga anak (go to mass always and thank the Lord).” That’s the gift that most parents really care to hand over to their children that hopefully will last them long.
And you know, that is so Christic—it’s so like Christ. Because those are the very gifts that Jesus handed over for his friends to receive and to pass on. As the Gospel today tells us, Jesus went around teaching in synagogues, telling the good news of the kingdom, curing every disease and infirmity among people. In other words, all his life, it was really himself that he handed over to those who cared to receive the offer. Deep in his heart, Jesus, like dad maybe, and like many of you, Jesus hoped for the best, that what he could offer, that is, himself, would last us a long, long time.
Our Lord had very little in life, even close to nothing he could call his own. His hands were often, well, quite empty. But precisely because they were empty, he was able to touch and heal the troubled. He was able to hold other hands in his & comfort the weary. He was able to lay his hands upon heads and bless. Our Lord really handed himself over with empty hands. But by their emptiness have we all been so wonderfully, unimaginably filled!
*image from the Internet