13th Sunday of Ordinary Time C

First Reading          Wisdom 1, 13-15
Second Reading     2 Corinthians 8, 7.9.13-15
Gospel Reading     Mark 5, 21-43

Simplicity and Sacrifice by Arnold Biago SVD

Kenosis is a familiar yet oftentimes theologically misunderstood Greek word. The word means “emptying,” based on its root, kenos, meaning “empty”.

In the Christian-Catholic traditions, kenosis, “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance” is taken as a theological term to explain the self-emptying act of Jesus as mentioned in Philippians 2:6-7.”

In other words, by becoming man through the Incarnation, God who becomes Jesus subjected himself to human laws of suffering and joy, pain and gladness, etc. Taking in mind that Jesus is God, we understood this gesture of abasement as his self-emptying; the Greek word for it is kenosis.

In the words of the (first reading today,) Second Letter of Paul to Corinthians 8, 9 on the poverty of Christ, For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he become poor although he was rich, that by his poverty you might become rich.”

Complex might be this theological heritage of Paul; it has much to teach us in the way we can best live out our faith in Jesus and our vocation as missionaries. First, in putting into action our being Christians, Jesus’ teachings and life of poverty calls us to nothing but a life of simplicity–as simple as that. Yet we know that we are unable to live as simple as we want to be because we complicate things by being entangled into trends, fashions and the demands of the consumerist society. No wonder, we developed in ourselves such outrageous desire to wear this branded clothes and shoes or to acquire this latest model of cellular phone or that upgraded digital device. As a result, many of us Christians complicate our lives and find ourselves in difficult situation with so much unsatisfied needs and wants.

Second, as to our being a missionary, the call is constantly live in the Spirit of sacrifice. This is manifested in our professions of vows as a form of renunciation of ownership—poverty, of following my personal desires—obedience, and of exclusive relationship—chastity, for the sake of the Kingdom and our mission. Interestingly, the moment we embrace the religious-missionary vocation, we gain as much privileged as we have renounced. This privileged comes to us as people accord us with much respect and high regard in society. However, what happens, we, religious and missionaries claim for ourselves and even shamelessly demand this privilege and respect forgetting that in the first place Christ has called us to constantly live in the spirit of sacrifice. In effect, many lay faithful oftentimes complain of their priest, of nuns and seminarians no longer within their reach and unmindful of their flight and concerns.

Several years ago, I read an open letter addressed to priests, religious and seminarians coming from an African youth. She was complaining of the drastic change in the attitude and lifestyle of his friends who became seminarians. She was asking, “What happened to him? Why does he no longer play with us? Why does he no longer come to eat with us, and why does he become so different from us?” I read of his letter while I was a seminarian. Back then, I already believed the truths of his observations as seminarians becomes different in the sense that they become an elite in the eyes of common and ordinary people. More so now, that I am a priest, in many ways, many ordinary people finds it difficult to identify with their priest, to such a point that they are ashamed, discouraged and unable to approach them. It is because; the life of simplicity and spirit of sacrifice is gone.

The challenge remains the same for all. Be like Christ who humbled himself and has become poor for our sake. It is in simplicity and sacrifice that we become like Christ.

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