29 Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 21, 2018
Talangka’ is the name of a variety of “shore crab” found in the Philippines. Plentiful, they are an inexpensive food source for many families. Purchased live in the markets, they are stored in large, uncovered baskets. In spite of the fact that the crabs use their pincers and legs to crawl up the sides of the baskets in an effort to escape, no cover or lid for the container is needed. The crabs are each other’s jailers. Just as one crab reaches the top, the one behind latches on to it, and pulls it back in an effort to make its own escape. One crab in a basket would successfully win its freedom. Add a second crab and neither will escape because they will continually drag each other down.
What appears to be instinctual behavior on the part of these little creatures, reminded Filipinos of a certain pattern of very intentional and negative human interaction. So, when out of envy or ambition, one individual or group of individuals tries to advance their own interests or ambitions, at the expense of someone else, their behavior has come to be called: “talangka’.”
Talangka’ mentality is not confined to the Philippines. Social scientists have identified it as a universal human characteristic. Simply put, “crab mentality” is an attempt to better one’s own position at the expense of someone else.
Should an example of crab mentality be needed, check today’s news from our nation’s capital. If the “swamp were to be drained” a whole lot of crabs would be scurrying for cover. Actually, it seems that no one is immune. When you give it some thought, you will recognize this behavior in the work place, at school, in sports, in the neighborhood, within faith communities and possibly even within families. “Crab mentality” is all too common. What’s shocking, is to encounter this anti social behavior, that is so destructive to our relationships, in the Gospel and among the Apostles!
But as we hear in our Second Reading: we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who has been similarly tested in every way, yet without sin. Himself experiencing our imprisonment, Jesus offered His crucified Self as our means of escape. Through Jesus, God has placed The Divine Self at the very bottom of the basket. Rather than trying to escape, The Lord become humanity’s way to freedom. Planting Himself in the very center of sin and death, and fastened securely to The Cross, it appeared to the foolish that there was no way out for Jesus. In truth, The Cross is humanity’s means of escape. If this is hard to understand, don’t panic. It even took awhile for the Apostles to grasp.
James and John were ambitious. They were climbing to the top. When the ten heard this they became indignant. The others stood ready to latch on and drag the two back into place with a variety of arguments. Jesus did it with the sobering reminder that to be in relationship with Him, one must unselfishly embrace The Cross.
By dragging each other down, we all remain imprisoned. It is by embracing The Cross that we can all be set free. Christ has set us free!