Injustices to Jesus

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

The comment of kitchenchief on one of my Ezine 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.

Open letter to our colleagues and partners in welfare and development endeavors

Today starts the celebration of the 14th NGO PO Week in Iloilo. Spearheaded by the Iloilo Coalition of NGOs and POs (ICON), the annual celebration is done in partnership with the provincial and city government to give due recognition to the role of Non-government organizations (NGOs) and People’s Organizations (POs), and other civil society organizations in nation building. It has been institutionalized by Provincial Ordinance No. 2000-042 and City Regulation Ordinance 2001-190.

ICON  2013

This year’s theme is “Reclaim our Noble Heritage: Sustain the Power of Networking.” It was supposedly intended to respond to the multi-billion pork barrel scam that has besmirched the noble aim and name of NGOs. In fact, the planned highlight of the celebration is the big gathering of NGOs and POs in the city and province of Iloilo to tackle the current national crisis brought about by the pork barrel scam. As well, as the subsequent backlash even to genuine organizations that have been consistently serving the marginalized sectors of the society. At the planning stage, we felt the need to strengthen our ranks through linkages and networking to safeguard the organizations from fly-by-night ones. We consider the crisis an opportunity to bring into the public consciousness the noble heritage and role of NGOs in nation building.

In fact, in a statement published after the finalization of the plan last November 2, ICON has deplored the use of fake NGOs in a conspiracy to steal taxpayer’s money which besmirched the noble aim and name of non-government organizations . The Coalition has observed two angles in the current controversy- the systemic graft and corruption practices and the role of the NGOs.

We considered the act a double injury. The large -scale misuse of the people’s money is outrageous. Siphoning money out of government coffers thru fake NGOs adds insult to injury. For it besmirch the good image established by the genuine NGOs for decades. Worse, it provides justification to some government officials and local chief executives who do not feel comfortable with the watchful eyes of NGOs and their seeming intervention as provided for by the local government code in the Philippines. For indeed, one way of averting the systemic robbery in our government is to involve genuine NGOs in monitoring projects.

MASIPAG Visayas handles the relief operation of the Philippine-Misereor Partnership, Inc.-Panay Cluster to famers in San Dionisio, iloilo

However, as we started our information-dissemination campaign Typhoon Yolanda had overtaken us, as it battered the Central Philippines. We almost forgot our plans as respective NGO members started their initial response in the form of relief operation. It was just last week, when the board of directors reviewed the theme and the activities for the week-long celebration. We have decided to continue with the theme, as this current crisis provides the same opportunity to reclaim our noble heritage. Such nobility is manifested, among others, in the quick response of NGOs to the recent needs, havoc, and ravages brought about by Typhoon Yolanda to supplement the government’s intervention.

We have simplified the celebration, though, due to pressing needs of the time which have also made our officers and member organizations busy in respective relief operation and rehabilitation plans. The following are the activities we decided to retain out of the previous plan:

icon

December 2, 2:00 pm Opening of Photo Exhibit, Robinsons Place,                                                              Iloilo City
December 3 – 8:30 am, Forum on Volunteerism, 4th floor                                                                              Henry Luce III Libraries, Central Philippine University
December 6- 8:30 am NGO-PO Fellowship and Capability Building                                                           Seminar, 4th floor Henry Luce III Libraries, CPU
December 7- Advocacy- Dialogue with NSTP students in various                                                             universities and colleges

The supposed highlight of the celebration on December 6 will be spent, instead, to discuss how we can maximize our participation  in the  on-going relief operation and  how we can sustain linkages and networking in helping in the rehabilitation or rebuilding process. In this way, our theme will still be relevant in responding to the crises in our country in various fronts or aspects. Despite the  crises, let us continue to celebrate this milestone of networking in Iloilo.

Let your tears flow

Guest blog post by Arlyn Liling Tagakapis*

Let your tears flow,
Why be ashamed of them?
They are not signs of weaknesses, but power;
Allow that salty water to stream down your cheek.
Stick out your tongue and lick that bitter taste of salt that fell into your lips.
It’s the mark of your oneness with the oceans and seas.

Let your tears flow,
Why do you have to wipe them off with paper or cloth?
Allow the wind and the sun to dry your face;
The storm is not your enemy.
They must exist to keep the planet earth alive.
Let all the elements of the earth to work with you as you re-build your lives – restoring your hopes and dreams with your loved ones.

Let your tears flow,
Why so anxious of having a “clean” face?
Let tears collect into your palm and draw stain at the cloth that covers your body;
Then, open your arms and fly; and plunge into the water.
The rivers must know of your own story, loud and clear.
Let your tears flow,
Why be afraid of your vulnerabilities?
They tell you that you are human; embrace your pain and perplexities; they are holy:
Your tears of uncertainty remind you that you belong to a family, relatives, friends, and neighbors and the world.

Let your tears flow,
Why hide them with a smile?
Do you know that mermaids don’t cry and so the most unhappy specie on earth?
Have you had a chance to see mermaid? I hadn’t either.
And we fret over so many things we don’t know about?
Take things one at a time… moment by moment.

Let your tears flow,
Why fear to be blinded by tears?
Your tears are rain upon the blinding dust of the earth that hardens your soul.
As tears cover the eyes, it uncovers the heart.
And, in this blindness, prepares the way for a different kind of seeing: sight through the “eyes of faith.”

_________________

*Arlyn is a US based friend and partner in volunteerism and advocacy for change and development. A versatile fellow, she wrote this poem in solidarity with all the people in the Philippines who face harsh realities and must re-build their dreams around the “catastrophic damage” left by the strongest ever tropical cyclone (dubbed in the country as Yolanda, internationally known as Haiyan) that made a series of landfall in the Island.