HomeCommentaryAnd I took the road less traveled by

And I took the road less traveled by

“Let your YES mean YES, and your NO mean NO,” says Jesus in today’s Gospel.

Sometimes, however, the choice is not only between a YES and a NO. Have you ever experienced inviting someone and the answer is neither a YES nor a NO? Sometimes, the answer is “Titingnan ko.” (I will see.) or “Best effort.” (Meaning, I am not promising but I will try my best.) That’s at least closer to a yes, but not yet really a yes. (I sometimes do that myself, when my schedule is full, but I try to negotiate for an adjustment, and it’s not always possible.) The real problem is sometimes, people will not answer with a YES or a NO, but with KUWAN.

There is a cartoon character who has been created as a caricature of people who answer that way: SMURF. “I will smurf you when I smurf my smurf.” I have a feeling that the name was a intended to be the opposite of SMART—namely, those who are condemned to a life of indecisiveness. It is also a choice in itself. When you can neither say yes or no; when you cannot make a commitment, you make a decision to live a non-committal life.




There are many people who live their lives this way. They cannot make up their minds; usually, it is because they don’t want to displease anybody. They want to remain acceptable to everyone and they think they can achieve it by staying neutral. They don’t want to take sides; they stay in the middle of the road—which is actually the most dangerous side.

People like these don’t realize that if you don’t decide, others will decide for you. It means you have surrendered your will to the mindless herd that just flows with the tide.

The capacity to make a decision is something that gives us identity. It was the first lesson in discipleship that Elisha in our first reading had to learn from his master, the prophet Elijah. There was no way he could wear the cloak of his master and succeed him if he could not make up his mind.

What was he asking for, you might ask. The request to say goodbye is not really an unreasonable request, is it? But we get what it really means in the Gospel, where a man said to Jesus, “I will follow you, but first let me bury my father.” I used to react negatively to Jesus’ reply to the prospective disciple, “Leave the dead to bury the dead.” Until a Bible scholar explained it to me. What the man was really saying was, “Let me wait until my parents have died already. By then I would have made up my mind to follow you.” Meaning, his father was still alive. Sometimes, parents could also be a reason why some children cannot make up their minds about their life’s vocation and mission and live unhappy lives.

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Some people say they cannot decide because they want to make sure they are not making a wrong decision. It sounds reasonable but not when it takes forever for the one making the decision. Part of the process of making the right decisions in life is precisely the experience of making wrong decisions sometimes and knowing the terrible consequences that go with them. The mistakes of the past hopefully make you more capable of making better decisions.

In Hebrew, the word DABAR can mean many things. It can refer to a thought, a speech, or an action or circumstance. But when it applies to God’s Word, it is the same. Meaning, God’s word is one; it is not fragmented. It also means we become truly Godlike ourselves when we learn to be persons of ONE WORD: when we can reconcile thought with speech, and speech with action. In Spanish, they call it “PALABRA DE HONOR”. Or the singular word is “INTEGRIDAD”, which has also been Filipinized. Meaning, a person whose thought, speech and action are integrated, not fragmented.

The poem that comes to mind is Robert Frost’s THE ROAD NOT TAKEN. I was watching an interview of a literary critic recently on BBC commenting that this famous piece of poetry is very commonly misunderstood, perhaps because of it’s title. He said, it’s not about making an adventurous, untypical, or an unfamous decision. You have to go back to the final line that says, “And I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” What made the difference? Not the road that he chose, but the fact that he made the decision. It’s not about the boldness to follow an unfamiliar path. It’s about the determination to make a choice.

Today we also celebrate the feast of Saint Anthony of Padua, a great preacher, a man, they say, who could command the attention of kings and paupers, of adults and children, of the educated and the uneducated. He is also famously called the PATRON OF THE LOST. No, not lost items; it’s a lot easier to find those. Rather, people who are lost. And among them, I would include people who are incapable of decision. Good decisions are those that are informed by experience, understanding, prayer and discernment, and made in conscience. Decisions made in conscience can never be sinful even when they can be wrong because the conscience is not well-informed. They are at least not made in bad will, but with a sincere desire to make a good decision.

In the Old Testament, there is story that illustrates our point in a metaphorical way. It is about what happened to the wife of Lot, the nephew of Abraham. Through Abraham’s intervention, God took pity on Lot’s family. They were guided by the angel to flee the town where they lived, which was about to be destroyed. The angel told them to run straight ahead to the mountains, and not look back. But Lot’s wife looked back. And what happened to her? She turned into a pillar of salt.

It is a value to look back in the sense of being grateful. But it is a disvalue to look back in the sense of getting stuck, of staying undecided, uncommitted.

“And I took the road less traveled by” is a homily delivered by Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan for Saturday, June 13, 10th Week in Ordinary Time and Feast of St. Anthony of Padua

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