“Girding loins and guarding self”: The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul, Wk. XIX-C, 11 August 2019

One of the series I am following at Netflix is“Money Heist”. It is very suspenseful because unlike other crime series, its plot is unpredictable and spiced with amusing conversations. Like one episode when the lead character called Professor repeatedly mentioned to the Police Inspector during their first date of how he is not a “Basic Instinct” material, referring to Michael Douglas who starred in the movie with Sharon Stone. I felt the line anachronistic because the Professor is so young in the series to make a point reference to the 1992 erotic thriller. But it was a very good line expressing fully what the scene was all about, of a man and a woman following their basic instinct in having sex without really knowing each other so well, especially the Inspector who is a battered wife newly divorced from her husband – also a police officer- and in a relationship with her sister!

Now you see what I have been telling you… but, what I really wish to share with you is an archaic term related with “basic instinct” that Jesus used in the gospel today:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have the servants recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.”

Luke 12:35-37
From Google.

Loins refer to that part of our body between the lowest ribs and hipbones, the pelvic area where the genitals are also located. It is believed to be the source of erotic or procreative powers we refer to as “basic instinct” or simply guts as in gut feeling.

During the time of our Lord, men wore long clothes and they have to “gird their loins” in order to move freely when walking and working. Eventually, men ceased wearing long clothes with no need to gird their loins but still have to tighten their pants, sometimes with a belt, to move freely as well. And even if there were no more loins to gird, the expression continued to be used to mean being on guard, being ready for any emergency and situation like a military attack.

This is the whole point of the Lord’s teaching this Sunday: we have to be on guard and ready always for his coming. In fact, anything can happen instantly that could also be life-changing. Girding one’s loins, being on guard and ready for the Lord’s coming requires active faith on our part, an inclination towards God already present in us.

There are actually three parables in our gospel this Sunday but we are given the option to use only the one we have heard which is the second set. In this parable, Jesus used the imagery of being on guard like the “faithful servants waiting for their master’s arrival from a wedding feast” to indicate his coming in the Eucharistic celebrations. Every Mass is our dress rehearsal for our entrance into heaven but we always take it for granted, finding all the reasons and excuses to skip especially the Sunday Mass.

Altar table of the Church of Dominus Flevit (the Lord Wept) with the old Jerusalem at the background. Photo by author, April 2017.

The Mass is our expression of our readiness to enter heaven as we joyfully proclaim after every consecration of the bread and wine that “Christ will come again.” But, even those who regularly come for the Sunday Mass do not take it seriously, not truly present with “full and conscious participation” enunciated by Vatican II 50 years ago.

Notice how in the third parable Jesus mentioned “faithful and prudent stewards” (Lk.12:42) to emphasize the need for servants and ministers at the altar to be more prepared than anyone else for his coming. So true! How can the people pay attention to the scriptures being proclaimed if the lector’s voice is very soft or incomprehensible? How can the congregation thank God for speaking to them anew if the lector’s face and disposition are so gloomy and even horrific?

And this refers more to the priest as presider of the Mass! Much is expected from us priests not only by the congregation but also by the Lord himself! How can the people feel Christ’s coming in every Mass when the priest himself does not meet the Lord, when he is not prepared physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually? What a shame when people complain that they hardly feel the Divine in every Eucharistic celebration! Always we find two extremes in many parishes where at one end are lethargic priests lacking the energy to lead their people into heaven during the Mass while at the other side are the showbiz priests so in love with themselves, with their voice and showmanship that the Eucharist has become a variety show.

Jesus reminds us in all his parables this Sunday that we priests and ministers at his altar of the Sacrifice of the Mass are his servants waiting for him, our Lord. We are never the focus but Jesus Christ alone! Let us not steal that honor from him.

Pyramids of Egypt, May 2019.

Speaking of stealing, Jesus added towards the end of his second parable on the need to gird one’s loins for his coming because it is like the coming of the thief at night. We must always be prepared because nobody knows when the thief strikes. And we find elucidations of this from the first and second readings we have earlier heard that speak about disposition for God.

From the Book of Wisdom, we are reminded how the liberation of the Israelites – their Exodus from Egypt – happened in the darkness of the night. Every celebration of the Mass is an active waiting for the Lord’s coming that also calls for an active faith wherein we are disposed or inclined towards God already with us. Such was the attitude of the Israelites leading to their Exodus from Egypt when Moses told them of God’s plan that every day, they were raring to go.

In the Letter to the Hebrews, the author beautifully expressed that “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Heb.11:1). He gives us Abraham as the perfect example of a truly faithful one to the Lord, always ready for his coming. In three instances, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews showed how Abraham had the perfect disposition of actively waiting for God’s fulfillment of his promises to him: journeying from Ur to the Promised Land he did not know where; being the father of nations as numerous as the stars of the sky when he and Sarah were still childless at their age of 90; and, in obediently offering Isaac to God.

Girding our loins, being on guard also means having the discipline of waiting for God. It is not enough to wait; we need discipline, we need to follow certain things to stay focused. As we have mentioned earlier, the loins is the region of our basic instinct. So many opportunities have been missed by many men and women simply because of small mistakes, of being caught off-guard in simple instances when everything snaps in an instant when they followed the lower basic instinct, forgetting the higher ideals.

Abraham girded his loins so well that he never wavered in his faith in God until his promises were fulfilled because he always had that disposition for him. This Sunday, Jesus is reminding us to be patient in waiting for him, to have the discipline to stay focused with him and our dreams and aspirations in life for he will fulfill them in his time. It is very important that like Abraham and the faithful servants in his parable, we are always present when he comes to seize his blessings! A blessed week ahead with you!Amen.

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