Soggy Cereal – Arnel Aquino, SJ

Luke 9:22-25, Thursday after Ash Wednesday

When I was on graduate studies abroad, my turn came to be community grocer. I made sure we had bread, milk, eggs, cheese, and cereals. One afternoon, an American scholastic, heavyset and hairy, waddled into the TV room where I was watching the news. Without excusing himself, he asked: “So, when are you buying Raisin Bran Crunch?” I was puzzled. I just bought twelve boxes of cereal, two of each kind, to last us until the Second Coming of the Messiah. So, I said: “Uhmm, Mark, I just bought a dozen boxes. I know there’s Raisin Bran in there, it’s—” “I don’t like Raisin Bran.” he cut in. “I want Raisin Bran Crunch.” See, I didn’t know there was Raisin Bran, and there was Raisin Bran Crunch. “What’s the difference?” I asked. “Raisin Bran gets soggy in my milk,” he said frostily. “Raisin Bran Crunch stays crunchy. That’s why it’s called Raisin Bran Crunch.” (I swore to God if he said “crunch” one more time . . . ) With mighty effort at fraternal charity, I said: “Uhmm, you know, Mark, why don’t we eat what’s there for now? I’ll get you your Crunch on my next run. I just literally came from the store.” “Well, I’m not gonna eat that!” And swung around and waddled out of there. No Raisin Bran Crunch and Mark’s world started falling apart. What a cross to bear, I thought. Cereal getting soggy in his milk.

There’s discomfort and suffering we really can do without; the kind we should really work towards alleviating and, even, eradicating because they cause such unnecessary misery. War, for example; genocide, abject poverty, world hunger; bigotry, homophobia, corrupt politicians—all of which hurt us. We really can do without them. On the other hand, there’s discomfort and suffering that’s necessary—at times, even imperative: like going through the slow process of personal maturity; or breaking new ground, if painfully, towards social integration; or journeying with our family towards healing and wellness. In deep-down things, passion, suffering, and loss are par for the course. Because, as I’m sure you’ll agree, nothing that’s deeply life-giving is ever pain-free . . . especially when it entails loving. True and deep loving has the cross written all over it.

The religious authorities who thought they loved God nailed Jesus to a cross because he was loving all the wrong people, and loving them too much, and too scandalously. “Ano ba naman yan,” you could hear them think. “Nanghihipo ng mga disabled, lumalapit sa mga leproso, galisin, gusgusin; nakikipag-usap sa malalaswang babae; nakikitropa sa amoy-araw, amoy-dagat, amoy kasalanan”; in other words, people whom the religious authorities were sure should not be loved and borne, precisely because they were society’s shame, society’s burden, society’s cross! But these were exactly the people Jesus picked up and took upon his shoulders, and carried towards healing, wellness, a change of life.

If we’re still asking ourselves, “Hmm, what should I give up for Lent?” which is like asking, “Hmm, what cross must I bear as my Lenten sacrifice? Do I give up sugar, rice, soda? More carrot, celery, cucumber sticks instead of the usual chips? Go vegan for forty days?” While we’re at it, how about considering these? How about lifting some burden of the burdened, easing some hunger of the hungry, alleviating some pain of the pained? Giving up something for Lent . . . tsk . . . while that brings discomfort, the ultimate beneficiary is often really only us. Carrying someone on our shoulders? Now that will entail a measure of a cross—discomfort, suffering, yes. But think about it: picking up that cross would bring Easter to someone who badly needs the uplift, someone who could use a short break from a cross that’s otherwise life-long, Lent or no Lent, Easter or no Easter.

So, if we’re thinking of imposing upon ourselves some measure of sacrifice for Lent, maybe it can be other-centered, charitable, a work of mercy. The real cross—that’s a close following of Jesus and really worth our sacrifice—is the cross that has people nailed on it. Not so much the cereal that gets soggy in our milk.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Sally Abelarde says:

    So I don’t have to worry about Netflix binging control or endless Facebook scrolling as cross offerings this Lent. ..” True and deep love has the cross painted all over it.”..” The true cross are the ones with people nailed to it.”
    Wow have to cast about wider, and launch farther into the deep.
    Kinda heavy but thank you Fr Arnel.


  2. gloria luz Raymundo says:



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