Resurrection: A Payback?

Article first  published on PADAYON: Our Life Journey.

Image Credit: turnbacktogod.com

Image Credit: turnbacktogod.com

Let me propose this angle in addition to the countless and unlimited significance of the resurrection of Jesus to our daily lives. Of course, we are aware of the basic teaching that resurrection is the cornerstone of our Christian faith. This has been elaborated every year by preachers of various religious groups and denominations.

For a change, let us explore resurrection as a reward to the greatest volunteer the world ever had. A precedence that may inspire millions of nameless volunteers worldwide. No matter how unsolicited this inspirational piece appears to some, though. Others may dislike this proposal. Volunteers will even protest the title. But certainly majority will agree with the claim that Jesus is the greatest volunteer.

Biblical writers have various description of the voluntary act of Jesus. But I like the Pauline version in Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV): “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

The Gospel records instances when Jesus insists on undergoing the voluntary process despite the supposed favor from people who know him as the messiah. When John the Baptist appears reluctant to perform the baptism ritual, Jesus prevails on him: “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 4:14-15)

Many times, Jesus rebukes his disciples in their actuations to seek redress to injustice and discrimination against his dignity. Unwelcome in his attempt to bridge the gap between warring cultures, he suffers discrimination in one Samaritan village. When James and John insinuate punishment to the humiliating experience, Jesus forbids therm. (Luke 9:51-55). Jesus calmly tells Peter to hold peace, in the latter’s attempt to fight back against the savagery of his captors: “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew26:53)

He washes his disciple’s feet at the height of leadership struggle position during the last supper. The lobbying of both John and James and their mother for position in the kingdom might have sparked the internal conflict. Hence, nobody appears willing to do the menial t ask which earlier they enjoy taking turns. Jesus volunteers.

Jesus consistently exemplifies the spirit of volunteerism in his lifestyle and teachings. He voluntarily follows all the requirements of the law, although in some instances, he deliberately skirt man -made unreasonable insertion and imposition to the requirements of God. He successfully passes the final challenge in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Subsequently, the divine justice expedites the awarding ceremony for the greatest volunteer in the world. St. Paul beautifully uses this clincher to the narrative of Jesus voluntary act: Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11)

I am not advocating pay back mentality.  Jesus even issues a strange rebuke to the perpetrators and perpetuators of this kind of mentality in Luke 14:12- 14. “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Youth volunteers pose for posterity after the forum on volunteerism sponsored by ICON. An umbrella network of volunteers and development advocates, ICON allocates a day for volunteerism endeavors in the week-long celebration of NGO- PO Week in Iloilo.

YMCA volunteers together with adviser pose for posterity after the forum on volunteerism sponsored by ICON. An umbrella network of volunteers and development advocates, ICON allocates a day for volunteerism endeavors in the week-long celebration of NGO- PO Week in Iloilo.

Certainly, volunteers do not expect rewards. The bible teaches us to give  or  serve without expecting a return. The last parable in the Gospel of Matthew (25:31-46) confirms this with the scenario of great surprises. In the final end, during the awarding ceremony, as the chaff is separated from the grain, sheep and goat divided, the result is beyond expectation. But volunteers receive their awards.

True, volunteers do not expect awards. But who can question God’s divine justice to recompense the faithful? Is there something wrong in viewing resurrection as a payback for volunteerism?

Finding virtue in suffering

Article first published as The virtue is not in suffering on PADAYON: Our Life Journey.

While many tend to glorify suffering, people who experience it will surely disagree. Having tasted the worst in life, so far, I can attest to this.

Yet, the belief in the virtue of suffering has been embedded in the psyche of Filipinos for centuries. More so, that there are also efforts to perpetuate such conviction for reasons only known to perpetrators. Some take suffering as a pass to heaven. Others look at sufferings as trademark of the followers of Christ. There are denominations that associate or even expect their clergy to undergo the process inevitably. Church members fondly call their pastors manugpangabudlay. An Ilonggo term which connotes hardship and difficulties.

Countries with colonial past, where religion is used in conquest are most vulnerable to this fate. Like the case of the Philippines. Historians note how colonizers integrate religion into their subjugation scheme. From feudalistic to capitalist systems, religion plays a big role in domestication of the subjects. In the context of the Philippine, as pointed out by nationalist historians, while the sword was used in conquest, the cross pacified resistance. The blessedness of poverty, mourning, oppression and persecution as taught in the church make people accept their fate, with relief, expectant of the future reward.

Image Credit: freebibleimages.org

Image Credit: freebibleimages.org

The belief in the virtue of suffering is more evident during Lenten season. Most often, crucifixion and death have been given emphasis in the observance. This can be attributed to the prevalent notion that the cross has salvific power. Redemption has been closely associated with pain and suffering. While Easter is considered the cornerstone of Christian faith, in practice people put emphasis on crucifixion.

Interestingly, attempts have been done by church authorities to dissuade rituals of self-inflicted pain and suffering in holy week celebration. Clergy, of various affiliations, consistently highlights the significance of resurrection in Lenten sermons and teaching. Still, it has not penetrated yet to the Filipino psyche. Filipinos are very much predisposed to suffering, according to Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz.The Church can only do so much to highlight the importance of Easter among Filipinos because suffering and poverty as well as the love for children are already deeply rooted in Philippine culture,” he noted.

While working on this series of Lenten reflections, I remember the article of a Filipino Jesuit priest. It was published after the execution of three Filipinos abroad convicted of drug-related offense. Fr. Manoling V. Francisco contends that suffering is not virtuous, but love is. Suffering is not even redemptive per se. The love underlying the pain makes it salvific.

Does it negate then the impact of the sufferings of Jesus? Not really. Fr. Francisco qualifies his point: “Jesus’ physical torment and emotional anguish do not redeem us; his willingness to suffer for his convictions and out of love for us is that which saves.” You might be interested to read his article, in the April 3, 2011 edition of Philippine Star, When suffering becomes a virtue.

Injustices to Jesus

This is a repost of my article published on March 25,2012.

The comment  of Charmaine “Sherry” Sorono  aka kitchenchief on one of my Lenten articles has inspired me to start a series of Lenten reflections. Lent is traditionally observed as preparation of the believer for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus the Christ. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ – his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection.

Considered as one of the major liturgical seasons of the Roman Catholic Church, Lent is celebrated by other Christian denominations including Protestant groups like the Lutheran, Methodist,Presbyterian and Anglican. Lent, particularly the Holy Week, is one of the two most celebrated events in the Christian calendar.

Taken from: susanknowles.com

Taken from:
susanknowles.com

The other one is Christmas. Results of survey may vary as to the perception of people on the most important between the two celebrations. Undeniably, however, these two events dominated the thoughts of believers in Christendom to the extent that the totality of the life of Jesus has been ignored.

Image credit: dreamstime.com

Image credit:
dreamstime.com

It’s unfortunate that Christians have become selective in remembering the life of Jesus. The other aspects of Jesus life are seemingly neglected, especially his manhood. Some sociologists and theologians view this as manifestation of cultural distortion or vested interests. We love to think of the baby Jesus and Crucified Christ. Their images evoke compassion. More importantly, less threatening as they reflect innocence and helplessness. But we are uncomfortable with the adult Jesus who confronts everyone without fear or favor, even turning the tables of those who make business out of religion. It seems, we want to evade the Jesus who challenges us to follow his example in service.

Oftentimes, the period  between birth and death has been neglected: his growth, manhood, the fight against harsh realities in life which could have been a model for living. How he withstand trials and temptations and never give in to the pressures and enticement of power compromise and pleasures of the world. His willingness to offer himself for a great cause.

From conception, he has already foretaste the cruel world system. The intrigues his earthly family encounters due to the controversial pregnancy prior to marriage. At birth, he has been exposed to vulnerable condition of the poorest of the poor, being born in a manger. His childhood experience is colored with the uncertain life of refugees to escape the persecution. Likewise, he has to adjust to the internal struggle in family relationship, as well as the immediate social environment as he keeps up the ideal living, even going against the norms.

Joey Velaco's Hapag ng Pag-asa Taken from vcolladojr.com

Joey Velaco’s Hapag ng Pag-asa
Taken from vcolladojr.com

Prior to his public ministry, he has to undergo the process of immersion. Living in a depressed community, he has seen the hypocrisy of leaders in the socio-cultural, economic and political structures. Their wanton disregard of the avowed mission to serve the people as ordained by God. How corruption and abuse of power has encroached the ideal immunity of the religious establishment. How religion has been used for business and profit. Yes, he has witness how leaders enrich themselves at the expense of the people they are supposed to develop.

Jesus also knows the struggle of well meaning people in the government and other sectors including revolutionary forces in effecting change. Their two pronged vulnerabilities- stereotype from victims and antagonism from the mainstream perpetrators. Aware of their conviction, he includes some of them in the core of his disciples, mainly composed of representatives from the basic masses.

(To be continued)

The spirit of EDSA lives on

Its cathartic power continues to provide relief and refreshes hope. The over arching and encompassing spirit cannot and will never be domesticated. Its mystery remains unspoiled, not completely unfolded.

These three insights summarized my series of reflections on EDSA and Lent during the Silver Anniversary of People Power Revolution in 2011. I was still  struggling with my health condition, at that time, making me vulnerable to depression. A pastor friend  had encouraged me to blog as part of my healing process. Thereafter, I experienced the miracle of blogging.

I have decided to repost these insights as my contribution to the 28th Anniversary of  EDSA Revolution today with the theme “Kapit-Bisig Tungo sa Pagbangon.” For  the historic event was instrumental in changing  my life’s direction. 

The Cathartic power of EDSA

Image credit: The Philippine Star Editorial Cartoon 2/25/2013

Nobody will ever deny that EDSA Revolution had provided relief to wounded and bruised nation, captive for decades by an abusive rule. Although debates over extent of healing still looms, it does not diminish the magical power of the historic event. I continue to experience this power while recalling my half a decade involvement in people’s struggle in the local context as part of the national call. Inevitably, haunting past events involving comrades, friends and the basic masses characterized the slow and painful process undertaken until that victorious day.

The feeling of gratitude to God for my survival and the thoughts of my contribution in shaping the history has been cathartic. Although my involvement pales in comparison to the intensity and period suffered by nameless and countless faces. The cathartic power of EDSA also refreshes my hope to attain full recovery from lingering illness. Chronic heart ailment, compounded by nerve disorder, has constrained my active life of service for three years now. The delay of complete healing makes me vulnerable to discouragement and depression. But recalling EDSA Revolution gives me new drive to conquer, if I will not give in to despair.

EDSA’s over arching and encompassing spirit

Like Lent, nobody can domesticate the EDSA Revolution. Even the so called EDSA heroes cannot claim exclusive right to the historical and mystical event in the Philippines. For the spirit of EDSA is inclusive. It is above all and encircles all.

What happened in EDSA 27 years ago reflects the truism of systems theory. The key concepts of the systems theory are wholeness, relationship, and homeostasis. The beauty of systems theory is represented by the rainbow. While there are only three primary colors (red, yellow, blue) there is a multiplication of colors when these link, interact, and overlap. Try to separate one from the other, and the beauty of rainbow is gone.

Image credit: cbclawmatters.blogspot.com

So with EDSA. It is a culmination of respective struggles participated in by the basic masses who since time immemorial always take the lead as they are ones affected. Then comes various sectors of diverse orientation, status, political and ideological leanings, colors and shapes. Youth, professionals, church people, businessmen and women, government officials, military and others. All have contributed their share in shaping the Philippine history. Try to isolate one, and the beauty of the event is gone.

Such inclusive spirit should have been the focus in celebrating EDSA and in sustaining its gains and the struggle for change. Most often, movement for change and development in any field of endeavor is often hampered by bigotry and exclusivism. Essential issues are sidetracked or left behind to give way to the struggle for supremacy misled by an illusion that one has the sole reservoir of truth and best approach in any given situation. It is only when one realizes the need to link with each other that the beauty of unity in diversity is seen like that of the rainbow.

The unspoiled mystery of EDSA

Twenty eight years after, the mystery of EDSA has not been fully unfolded. Analysts from various socio-political persuasions attempted to explain the event. Some had to come up with new concepts as EDSA Revolution departed from any of the standard categories. While new testimonies from living participants came out every year, they just shed light to understand the pattern of events and contributing factors. But the mystery still remains.

EDSA bloodless Revolution defied logic. For how can you explain this phenomenon: “When guns and tanks of a dictator melted before the flowers held out by priests and nuns, by millionaires’ sons and squatters’ daughters, by ordinary men and women and by young and old alike; when… a new day was ushered in by ordinary Filipino common tao who rose to heroic heights that won the admiration of the whole world…” The quoted description was that of Jorge Lorredo, Jr. in his article “Four Days that changed History” published in Bulletin Today exactly 28 years ago, as cited by Douglas J. Elwood in his book, Philippine Revolution.

The hand of God was there…” was the explanation of the late Dr. Quintin Doromal, former PCCG commissioner & president of Siliman University. Quoted by his friend Douglas Elwood in the book, Doromal, an Ilonggo leader, was a witness to the event, having joined his old friend Fidel Ramos at Camp Crame and stayed there with him throughout those critical anxious hours.

Indeed, God acts through people, as surely as he speaks through people, and that he uses the sometimes complex interconnection of human forces to serve his larger purposes.

Bloom even where you’re not planted

Bloom where you're not planted

Taken beside the Swimming Pool of Central Philippine University, Iloilo City

When I saw this flower yesterday, while doing my early morning walking exercise, the first thing that came into my mind was the popular quote “bloom where you’r e planted.”

Impressed by the way the flower struggled to sprout and bloom in an unlikely situation, I thought of making an amendment to the quotation. So, I requested my daughter to take a photo of the flower before it withers or somebody plucks it.

Surfing the net, I found out that while Mary Engelbreit popularized the phrase, others give the credit to the Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622). Hence, my apologies to them for this amendment which, hopefully, does not distort their intention.

But isn’t life sometimes like that? We are compelled to live and  give our best even in unlikely situation, condition, fields, places or circumstances.

2013 in review: When blogging becomes a ministry

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,100 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

A stressful Christmas

Christmas is supposed to be the happiest season of the year for Christians throughout the world. No need to worry about pressures inherent in work, school and other activities due to the usual Yuletide break, except for those who in exigencies of service continue to report for duty in respective endeavors. “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” as aptly described by one of the most popular carols.

However, like any other holidays intended for rest and leisure, Christmas has become a stressful time brought about by complexities in our modern world. There’s a stressful decision on what to prioritize due to limited budget, squeezing the budget in gift giving for family members and godchildren, and at times choices on where to spend the vacation. There are also mixed up of activities and celebrations, traffic, queuing in shopping, time pressures, and family tensions. Not to mention, threat/lose of employment, damaged properties due to disasters, sickness for some and bereavement for others. Even the thought of upcoming activities reserved for the incoming year can cause stress.

Worse, we are more aware of how stress has become detrimental to our health. Many of life threatening illnesses and long-term health problems are caused by stress. No wonder, various articles on print or web have been written towards a stress-free Christmas. Some even insert the phrase stress – free on the usual Merry Christmas greetings.

joseph

Image Credit: http://www.lds.org

However, before we make a rush on dreaming of a stress-free Christmas, let us be reminded that the first Christmas was indeed a stressful one for some important characters as told by the Gospel writers. Foremost, it was stressful for Mary and Joseph who were forced to travel from Nazareth to the little town of Bethlehem, at the time of expected delivery. One can imagine how slow the movement of a pregnant woman about to give birth as she trod on rugged terrain, the discomfort it brought to them for estimated four days to a week until they reached their destination. This, probably, explains why “there was no room or them in the inn” as these were already occupied by those who arrived earlier.

Those of us who have experienced the birth of our kids coinciding with equally important or demanding occasions can empathize with the situation of the couple. I can still recall the births of our three children which came at a time when there were pressures on us. Our eldest was born while I was at our home province attending the funeral of my father. Good that my wife’s insistence to travel with me was neutralized as it could have put us into a more difficult situation. Likewise, our youngest was born coinciding the funeral of my mother. So our hired taxi had to wait for us so that I could catch up the boat trip so as not to repeat what happened during our first born when I experienced the agony of waiting for the next day, worrying about the fate of my wife and our baby. At that time, there was no mobile phone or internet connection to get timely updates. The birth of our middle child was equally stressful as there was complication prior to his birth.

Image Credit: markwoodward.org

However, it was not only Mary and Joseph who experienced stress. Luke mentioned about the shepherds who were the least to be expected as purveyor of the glad tidings. Shepherds were considered to be among the lowest and most despised social groups, at that time. The nature of their work kept them away from the mainstream of Israel’s society. They couldn’t even perform rituals and observe religious celebration. From all angles, it would be unlikely for them to be visited by the throngs of angels. Thus, one can imagine how stressful it was for them to handle such a godly situation. That’s why they were terrified, much more with the sudden appearance of a great company of the heavenly host.

Matthew, on the other hand, mentioned another character who had experienced stress at that time. He recorded how the reigning king panicked…”Herod was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” The connection between the reaction of Herod and that of the people can be gleaned from the recorded accounts of his cruelties. The Wikipedia has this kind of consolidated description for him: a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis; the evil genius of the Judean nation; prepared to commit any crime in order to gratify his unbounded ambition; and the greatest builder in Jewish history. Modern scholars agree he suffered throughout his lifetime from depression and paranoia.

That’s how stressful the first Christmas to the aforementioned characters. But how did they manage such stressful condition? And what were the effects to them and the subsequent relevance to us, nowadays. These are the content of the next post.