Reflection for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B)
Genuinely good people are real yet perhaps more often than not, ordinary persons within our midst. They may simply be the average “somebody” you live with or work with at home or in the office, or meet on the street, “someone” you may hardly think will be “good.” They laugh, cry and complain about the struggle to survive modern living just like the rest of us, but their candid expressions come with an authenticity we have yet to imitate with our duplicitous daily masks. They are relatively nameless faces in a multitude of contemporary angst, but are actually turning out to be rare shining lights at the opportune time.
Genuine goodness seems to be of an inexplicable existence, a virtue that is not what it appears to be. Genuinely good people do not try to be good, they simply are; they do not try to do good, they simply do. There can never be an intensive conscious effort to be genuinely good, because such an effort presupposes an origin of not being genuine.
Genuine goodness seems to be the internalization of painful encounters with falseness, especially false goodness; a coping mechanism to the trauma of lies and betrayals. Genuinely good people may have come to know and understand what it is like to be the “forgotten other,” or the “maligned other,” and are firmly resolute in making sure that no one is left behind. It may seem to be an actualization of justice borne out of injustice, but genuine goodness may have to also draw its energy from somewhere else.
Though we believe we have all been created in the sacred goodness of the Creator Spirit, only those who have willingly surrendered themselves to the continued sustenance of this same goodness from the Spirit, will become genuinely good. No one among us can claim having not fallen from the blessings of such providence, but for as long as we are desiring to recover and to reform ourselves through serving the kingdom of God, the Spirit in spite of our unworthiness, will never leave us. Our Father can and will continue to give because like the Christ, we are promising to give ourselves.
Hence, genuine goodness is not a construct of deliberate design, but a grace that flows through us, and is made manifest only through the cooperation of the Spirit and our spirits. It is not purely human goodness, for such is sorely limited, while genuine goodness overflows because we have chosen to become channels of what is divine and infinite. Indeed, the goodness we give comes from us, but it is not our own. So, we cannot boast of genuine goodness, for we cannot be proud of what we do not possess, though with it we can find peace.
That is why genuine goodness is a project of silence, the promptings of a supernatural charity, like a spring of living water whose source is unknown. We can barely recognize or accept genuinely good people, because we are so used to the false goodness that is displayed or borne with unrestrained pride. We can only see the goodness that deceives, that strives to shine for its sake alone, that seeks to be known and applauded. On the other hand, genuine goodness is quiet and unflattering, because it emanates from a clear comprehension of one’s need to give, in humble reparation and reciprocation for having received abundantly what it did not deserve. That is why genuinely good people are never aware of the goodness they are giving to the world.
Therefore, our genuine goodness and service for the kingdom can only depend on “lifting up our eyes to him who is enthroned in heaven.” Paul reveals it is with such inadequacy or weakness that our Lord “dwells with us,” so it is in acknowledging our shortcomings or failures that we find strength. Christ admonishes us that only his grace is sufficient, and that the unrelenting pursuit for being “good” on our own terms, is useless. And so, like the Apostle, may we be “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints for his sake,” allowing perfect goodness to shine amidst imperfection. The pride that comes with wanting “to appear good while not appearing to be weak” is the root cause of spiritual self-alienation.
Only genuine goodness in the service for the kingdom can stand against the evil of injustice and violence, because inauthenticity like both, is also rooted in pride, envy and greed. An effective social action must be grounded in genuine goodness. The miracle of justice cannot and will not happen where it is not needed, where God is unwanted, where motives remain delusive. Such false charity will always be the perfect companion to, if not more lethal than social oppression itself.
Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
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