19 August 2007


20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 12:49-53

Even before I was born, my father wanted to name me Carlo Magno. But he decided otherwise. Though my mother wanted to name me Angelito or Raulito, my father prevailed and named me Roberto. He used to tell me that the first time he saw me at the nursery of the Far Eastern University Hospital, he noticed that I was a spitting image of his brother who passed away just a few months before I was delivered. My uncle’s name was Roberto.

Sometimes, I wonder if my uncle’s name and mine – as well as my two cousins’ names, both Roberto also – were taken after the famous Senator Robert F. Kennedy, brother of the only Catholic President of the United States of America, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Why not? However, both Bobby and John died by an assassin’s bullet.

Robert “Bobby” F. Kennedy was assassinated in June 1968 in Los Angeles, California. According to his brother, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, what Bobby fought, lived, and died for is the best summary of the speech he gave to the youth in South Africa in 1966.

In his speech to the young people of South Africa, Bobby spoke about his reflection on discrimination, apartheid, slavery, poverty, violence, hunger, and violation of human rights. “What can a man or a woman can do,” asked Bobby, “against these enormous evils He himself answered. “Some of us,” Bobby said, “will have greatness to bend history, but each one of us can try to change a small portion of the events, and the sum total of all those acts will write the history of this generation.”

This is exactly how Robert “Bobby” Kennedy lived and died. “Bobby,” said his brother Edward, “was a simply a good and decent man who saw evil and tried to correct it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.”

The life and death of Robert “Bobby” Kennedy have some similarities with the life and death of Jeremiah the Prophet and Jesus the Christ. The three of them spent their lives trying to change the course of human history by fighting evil and doing good.

In the first reading today, after pleading with his people to return to God lest a national tragedy would befall them, Jeremiah was falsely accused to being a traitor. His own people threw him down a muddy well to die. This time, he was saved by Ebed-melech’s mediation with King Zedekiah. But, in another time, his own people would still kill him when his prophecies were fulfilled.

In the gospel, the words of Jesus regarding His mission are also disturbing. He metaphorically used the image of lighting a fire and described His death as a baptism He had to undergo. And history repeated itself, for as it was with Jeremiah who came before Him, Jesus, too, was murdered by His own people who connived with the Roman colonizers. The great difference, however, is that, three days after His death, Jesus triumphantly rose back to life.

Jeremiah, Jesus, and Robert “Bobby” Kennedy – they all dedicated them selves to the struggle for the good of their people; they all were controversial and caused division among the people; they all were martyred, shedding their own blood for what they believed in and fought for.

Is our calling unto Christian discipleship any different from theirs? Can we look at the evils around us and not ignite in righteous anger? Is anger, no matter how righteous, all that we have? Are we cowards and, therefore, we cannot make a stand and fight for what is truly right? Are we indifferent? Will we not act as disciples of Jesus the Christ?

Jeremiah, Jesus, and Robert “Bobby” Kennedy were not contented with the status quo. They saw how things were. They dreamt and act. They preached and struggled. They lived and offered their lives for what is right.

Robert “Bobby” Kennedy once said:

“Each time someone makes a stand for the right or acts to improve
the condition of others or fights injustice, he creates little ripples of
hope. And crossing paths from different million centers of energy
and risk, those tiny ripples build a current that sweep down the
mightiest wall of oppression and resistance.”

We were all created by the Divine Light to light a fire upon the earth. Through the kind of life we live, we can set ablaze those that are engulfed by darkness and those who die in the cold. May the courage of the Prophet Jeremiah be ours to ignite such a fire by our preaching. May the faith of Robert “Bobby” Kennedy be ours to spread such a fire by our dreams. May the love of Jesus be ours to keep such a fire burning by our deeds.

Robert “Bobby” Kennedy often said: “Some people see how things are and they ask, ‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were and I say, ‘Why not?’”

Yes, why not?


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