A RAGING CONTROVERSY is in our midst after President Duterte spewed words that seemed to blaspheme the God of perhaps 85 million Filipinos. Many are confused as to how to react to this apparent assault on God Himself.
Confused because, in the Old Testament, one hears of David using his sling to kill Goliath. And of Moses using his rod to close the open sea and drown hundreds of pursuing soldiers of Pharoah unto their death.
We hear of the walls of Jericho crumbling from the sound of trumpets. Later in history, we are told of the Crusade to fight the “infidels” sword for the sword- an eye for an eye.
Yet, in the New Testament -almost to a page, there is a litany of love and peace- of loving one’s enemy and turning the other cheek when slapped.
This confusion in the midst of a deafening outcry for justice and demand for an apology among Christians perhaps necessitated this collective response of the Catholic bishops through a pastoral letter authored by the CBCP which will be read in English or various dialects in the Manila metropolis and 40-odd provinces in the archipelago this Sunday.
We are not some learned theologians nor especially gifted with deep spiritual discernment of the Holy Spirit to fully fathom and catch the full import of the CBCP but allow us to paraphrase or interpret what the Scripture-based words could possibly mean.
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REJOICE AND BE GLAD
To be “sons and daughters” of God, we have to strive to bring love where there is hate, pardon for injury, faith for doubt, hope for despair, light for darkness and joy for sadness.
Understand that we are not fighting a man’s battlefield- where people bear arms and wear bullet-proof vests. Because this is a spiritual battle, where in the midst of so much hatred, violence, daily murder, insults in social media, we remain steadfast in our vocation for peace.
But that kind of peace does not mean peace of compromise or capitulation of evil; it is also NOT the absence of conflict and turmoil.
Jesus showed us how to deal with adversities when He slept soundly in the boat amid the raging storm at sea. Like many of us, most of the Apostles were in fear and panic. But the Lord assured them: “Be not afraid, it is I.”
Priests being murdered and stewards of the Lord maligned made the “blood of martyrs” becoming seeds of Christians. Do not be afraid. Such has made the church survive for two thousand years. It will survive a hundred thousand years more. For Our Master had said:” Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”
We are not strangers to ridicule and persecution. When we are so inflicted today for His Name’s sake, the Lord says “rejoice and be glad.”
But there are Christians among the 85 million who see nothing wrong with the killings, laugh when God is blasphemed and take part in passing fake news. But our Master had forewarned that in working for peace, we have to go through the crucible of conflicts. Peace does not always mean the absence of conflict.
There are those among us who profess to be Christians but can be seduced by the empty but glib promises of Satan. Wasn’t it an apostle himself among the blessed thirteen who betrayed his Master for 30 pieces of dirty silver?
Do not concentrate on the sufferings of the church leaders today. It is part of the sacred territory. But shed your tears and allow your hearts to bleed for poor slum dwellers jailed for “loitering”, the homeless urban poor who are forced to make the streets an extension of their tiny, decrepit, messy homes.
Look with compassion on drug addicts labeled as “non-humans” who may be cases of struggling sick people needing rehabilitation instead of easy targets for killing and dumping in inhuman cells.
While we commiserate with the innocent victims of drug users- also ponder that every dead man leaves behind a widow and many orphaned children, all of who can barely even afford for his decent burial.
“Do we not care when poor people’s homes are searched without warrants and drug suspects arrested without warrants, or detained without charges?” What about the deaths of indigenous people caught in the crossfire of government and the insurgents?
Even our own fallen government troops we should look with pity- killed in a senseless war that could have been averted by a dialogue.
There is a quotation that even a “pained small finger can be felt by the entire body.” That is not always true when some parts of the body are numbed by sheer indifference. Like the snobbish bystander watching a wretched piece of history pass them by. But do not underestimate our God as the heathens do.
For in (1 Cor 1:27-29) “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing- to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.”
To those angered by the statements against the Lord by those in authority, remember that vengeance is never the way of Christ.
There are those who accuse us of destabilizing the government -but we are not interested in establishing any earthly kingdoms. For worldly kingdoms come and go. We only work for God’s Kingdom which is not of this world.
For those times in our history in which the church hankered for power, we bow in shame and say, never again.
For we respect democratically-elected authority-but only as long as “they do not contradict the basic spiritual and moral principles we hold dear-such as respect for the sacredness of life, the integrity of creation, and the inherent dignity of the human person.”
We are not political leaders, certainly not political opponents of the government, For decades, we have co-existed with governments-even in critical collaboration with them especially at the LGU levels.
When collaboration is not possible due to our moral and spiritual guidelines- we can only invoke our right to conscientious objection. Our speaking on issues is always from the perspective of faith and morals, especially on the principle of social justice, never with any political or ideological agenda in mind.
We bow in shame when we hear abuses of our fellow Church leaders-we hold ourselves accountable for their actions and accept our duty to correct them. We admit we have many weaknesses- human as we are.
Starting on JULY 16,2018 on the Feast of the Blessed Mother of Mt. Carmel, the mountain associated with the bold challenge of the prophet Elijah in defense of God, to July 19,lets spend THREE DAYS of prayer and penance , invoking God’s mercy and justice on those who blasphemed God’s Holy Name, those who bear false witness or those who commit murder or justify murder as a means to fight criminality. Come, let us join with all of our bishops.
We commend you, our dear people of God, to Mother Mary- to be near us especially when we tend to despair and run out of faith, hope, and charity. Teach us what to do only what your Son asks of us.
And when we lose heart because of persecution, stand by us at the foot of the cross- so we can regain our strength from the blood and water that flowed from the wounded side of your Beloved Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Kindly reflect on these words from your bishops and feel in your heart what true Christians should do in the face of adversities.
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