One day a couple invited me to say Mass at the house of a very sick uncle who was completely bedridden. I agreed to go and coordinate with them to be fetched at the EDSA Shrine. They had their 5-year-old son in tow when they came to fetch me.

We passed some side streets near Banawe, and I chanced upon a simple makeshift stand that had very large guavas with leaves still on them. I exclaimed, “Look, Martin look at those guavas!” Martin must have seen how wide-eyed I had gotten about the guavas. So he asked me, “Do you like guavas a lot, Father? Is that your favorite?” I felt slightly embarrassed. I felt I had to tell the child the truth even though he may not believe me precisely because of my enthusiasm about the guavas. I answered, “No, Martin, I do not like guavas.” Just as I thought, he was surprised to hear that answer. Disappointed, he said, You do not like guavas, so why did you get excited about seeing them?” I said, “Well, I thought you might like the sight of really big guavas.”

Now it was my turn. “Do you like guavas, Martin? What is your favorite fruit?” He shrugged his shoulders. Seemingly afraid to make a mistake, he turned to his mother and said, “Do I have a favorite fruit, Mama? Is it like yours, Mama? What is your favorite?”

Interestingly, the mother answered, “You, you are my favorite, Martin!”

I gave such a loud and amused chuckle that Martin seemed contented with leaving the discussion alone on that note. He beamed with pride as he was told he was his Mama’s favorite. Of course, I found out later that Martin was not an only child. There were six children in the family: He must have been overwhelmed by the fact that he was chosen among his four brothers and sister and considered the favorite. He now could not care less about the guavas or any fruit for that matter. So I thought…

We could very well think it was unfair for the parents to say that to the boy. Imagine if he went home and bragged about his newly found status and place in his mother’s heart, then the other children would cry, “Foul!” “Unfair!”

Honestly, though, is there such a thing as treating everyone equally? We hope to hear a resounding “YES!” Is that realistic? We complain when our parents give our siblings more attention or material gifts than we do to them. People complain when others are not treated like everybody else -” in the same way.” Is treating everybody in the same way a sign of virtue?

Treating everybody in the same way, is not a sign of virtue. Even St. Paul says he did not treat everybody the same way. To the Jews, he was a Jew; to the Gentiles, he was a Gentile; to the weak, he became weak. Paul adjusted himself according to the need of the person he was dealing with. His goal was to bring others to Christ. In being flexible and sensitive to the needs of those around him, St. Paul actually became another Christ for the people.

Christ did that too. He did not treat everybody in the same way. To the teachers and doctors of the law, He spoke using their legal and technical language. He did not speak with a firm assertion to the sinful woman but with great compassion and kindness. His goal was to bring the love of the Father to all. He was sensitive to the needs of those He had to address.

To treat everybody in precisely the same way is far from virtue. It speaks of inflexibility and rigidity. It betrays a certain amount of closed-mindedness and myopia. To treat everybody exactly the same way is not fair but is a gross injustice. Each one is unique and, therefore, must be treated according to the need, background, upbringing, and situation. Is that being prejudiced? I do not think so. Treating everybody exactly the same way is a sign of prejudice to one way of acting to the detriment of the others.

Sensitivity to the needs of others is a greater sign of compassion and love. To be more flexible and willing to adjust ourselves so that more people can be accommodated is a sign of Christlike loving.

“Guess what? Martin spoke up after a few minutes of silence, probably figuring out if he liked guavas. Then he said almost playfully, “Father, why don’t you like guavas? They taste good. I like them but do not know if they are my favorite.” I gave him a nice pat, held him close, and said, “You know Martin, God loves us so much that He made us all different. He knew that each of us would have a different favorite fruit. So He gave us so many different kinds of fruits. Some are sour, like santol and pineapple. Some are sweet, like atis. I do not like guavas because they are not sweet, but they are also not sour. God made a special fruit for every one of us. Just like He gave each one of us a special gift, He gave each fruit a special taste. It is okay if you like guavas and I do not like guavas. To God, we are all special. By God’s definition, we are all His favorite because He treats each one differently but special.”

At this point, Martin seemed to have wanted some assurance from me, and so he asked, “Father, do you think I am Mama’s real favorite? Or Ate and Kuya is the one? With full confidence, I said, “I believe you are your Mama’s favorite. Why, don’t you think she treats you special?” He smiled contentedly.

Jesus Our Light

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