"...But from the Beginning, it was not so."
(see Mt 19:8)
Yesterday Once More
July 26, 2014 at 6:10pm
26 July 2014
17th Sunday Ordinary A
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked. “Yes,” they replied.
He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his store room new treasures as well as old.”
Yesterday Once More
This Sunday we reflect on the last set of the parables in this wonderful chapter of Matthew 13. Jesus here speaks of the Kingdom of God and uses the imagery of treasure buried in a field, a merchant in search of fine pearls and a dragnet. We could say a lot about each of these parables but what caught my attention reading the Gospel this time is the last imagery Jesus used: “… the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old” (v 52).
Notice that Jesus calls both the new and the old as treasures. It’s a beautiful imagery of the Church and of Her faithful. It is an institution and a community enriched by the harmony of the old and the new, of tradition and vision, of growth and rootedness, of conservatism and liberalism.
We must admit our attitudes often fall into either of opposite extremes missing out on the benefit of synergizing both dimensions. That line in the parable is a statement against an ignorant prejudice against the old and a juvenile prejudice in favor of the new.
I attended a meeting once with a group of passionate, energetic and quite accomplished young professionals. After opening prayers we all sat down and got ready for discussion. I brought out my old reliable pen and paper. Everyone began to pull out their MacBookPros and iPads and netbooks. Expecting an important message anytime on, I laid on the table my old reliable Nokia 6330. Then everyone brought out their Blackberry’s, iPhone5’s and Samsung tablets. “Welcome to the digital age,” I whispered to myself. I must admit I felt so Jurassic that afternoon and I left the meeting feeling like I needed counseling to regain my self-esteem. Retiring my good old Nokia phone was a step in the right direction.
We should embrace cultural evolution, progress, technology and modern advances. They are goods in themselves. They are a testament to the richness of human culture, intelligence, and creativity. But may I throw in a little caveat. An experience years ago pointed this out to me. While walking in a mall, I once overheard a group of teen-agers shrieking, “Oh my gosh, did you see that? That is so 2010!” I didn’t know what they were talking about but the aversion with which that teen-age girl said “That is so 2010!” made it seem like 2010 was centuries ago. For a moment then I was disoriented. I checked my calendar and we were just halfway of 2011.
I remember the late Fulton Sheen speaking of what he called “the chronological arrogance of the modern age.” It is that attitude that undiscerningly accepts and embrace anything and everything that is “modern.” It is that attitude that also mocks anything and everything that is “yesterday.” And if there is a slogan that best illustrates this “chronological arrogance of the modern age,” it is this: “That is so 2010!”
Yes, as Jesus suggested in the parable, the new is to be welcomed, but not without discernment. The new is to be rejoiced at but not with the automatic dismissal of the old. A feminist activist sarcastically wrote in her recent column, “…the Philippines and the Vatican are the only country in the world that refuse to legalize abortion, and it’s a shame because we’re already in 2014.” A lawmaker trumpeted in Congress, “Every city and country in the world has already accepted divorce. The Philippines is the only one that has not implemented it. It’s the modern times already.” Pray tell me. Is human life and marriage a matter of vogue or values? Even our ethical and legal procedures seem to be determined by this “chronological arrogance of the modern age.”
Just think about it? Are marriages today better than the marriages of old, say the 1950’s or 60”s or even 70’s (I can hear the teen-agers shrieking again)? Do parents feel more secure today for their future and for their children than yesterday? Do we feel more safe and secure in our society today than before? Are children more respectful of the elderly today than before? Is the world a safer place today than before? If we search our heart of hearts, we know the answer is “no.”
Maybe the era that we ridicule as obsolete knew something right yesterday. Maybe the folks we brand as “narrow-minded” and “unenlightened” were doing something right yesterday. Maybe we are in a big mess today because we have ignored the wisdom of yesterday and embraced hook, line and sinker the proposals of the present day. Maybe yesterday need not be readily dismissed by today.
God bless you!