Saturday, April 30, 2011

Resurrection: A Payback?

Let me propose this angle in addition to the unlimited significance of the resurrection of Jesus. Viewing 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. So, let’s start from this commonality and settle the differences later in this article.

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. The bible abhors the practice of giving favor or doing service. 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.”

Certainly, volunteers do not expect rewards. 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?

Friday, April 22, 2011

The significance of Jesus suffering : Incarnation- Resurrection

The Garden of Gethsemane, on the way to the cross, serves as venue of Jesus affirmation on his willingness to sacrifice as redeemer. There he wrestles with his humanity vis-a-vis the divine mandate. As recorded in the gospel, the scene in the garden portrays the last struggle. Jesus pours out his innermost thoughts and feelings to the Father. Reviewing the justice requirements and redemption scheme, he attempts to argue for other alternatives apart from the cup of suffering and death. In the end, he seals his commitment to undergo the last stage of redemption with this prayer: Nevertheless, your will be done, not mine.

Thereafter, the culmination of his suffering takes place. The cross is only part of the womb- to- the- tomb painful experiences of Jesus. Hence, the old rugged cross is not the only thing we must cherish and exchange someday with a crown. Our salvation is not the product of the suffering of Jesus just on the cross. It is the totality of the life of Jesus that exemplifies the love of God for humanity.

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 manager. 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.

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.

It is in this context that our observance of religious events or even public holiday should be done in the totality of the life of the honoree. It’s unfortunate that Christians have become selective in remembering the life of Jesus. Traditionally, there are only two most celebrated events in his life- Incarnation and Passion. Recent survey of the Social Weather Stations revealed that Filipinos consider Christmas as the most important of the two.

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 of 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.

As one clergy observes, almost all church members can easily recite John 3:16. But many do not know what is 1 John 3:16. Indeed, it is comforting to know that God loves us so much to the extent of giving His only Son for us. It is another thing to show our love by sacrificing for others.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The significance of Jesus suffering

In the previous post we clarify that there is no virtue in suffering. Instead, suffering produces virtues. St. Paul, in his letter to Romans (5:3-4), identifies some as perseverance,character,and hope. Those who have undergone suffering, as well as witnesses to the sufferings of others will surely agree with the claim. Stories of transformation in individuals and their significant others are innumerable to tell. My life-journey is now part of that package.

But what makes the significance of Jesus peculiar? The prophet Isaiah has already provided the answer long before this was first asked. “He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5), New Living Translation,2007

Published by Redemptivebooks Publishing, Iloilo City,
 Philippines. The author can be contacted through:
A brother in faith and partner in development endeavors has a very clear and logical presentation of this redemptive process. Atty. Edwin R.Catacutan considers his book, Creation, Fall and Redemption as a lawyer’s incursion into Christian Theology. In half- an- inch thick document, the book capsulizes the story of the Bible. For him the bible is divided into two parts with highlight on the three significant cosmic events, i.e. the title of the book. These are the dominant thoughts of the Bible story. The first part (Creation and Fall) contains the reasons why the rest of the bible was written – Redemption Procedure: Effects and Aftermath.

As a justice requirement, there needs to be a redeemer to the sentenced humanity. Legally, angels are disqualified, having no physical body and subsequent death. As progeny of Adam already burdened with own death, nobody from the human race is qualified. Hence, no one can substitute for another, or for own self, despite willful act. Neither can any one force another to sacrifice for himself. Purchasing redemption is also a legal impossibility. For, as the author argues, with reference to the bible, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world, and they that dwell therein.” (Psalm 24.1)

The only option is a kinsman of the human race who is able and willing to do the job. A truly man, with flesh and blood not contaminated by sinful nature, who can truly experience death. The only mathematical solution is a virgin birth - child of a woman, begotten of the Holy Spirit. … That way the offspring, while being man, can also be truly God who is able to perform task of redeemer.

To be continued

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The virtue is not in suffering

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.

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.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Is suffering a virtue?

Much as I wanted to attend the 83rd Graduation Ceremonies of Central Philippine University last week, my health constrained me. But I got a copy of the commencement message of a brilliant young lawyer who is the only son of my mentor at the Department of Social Work. Addressed to graduates and respective families, the last portion of his speech inspires me. Subsequently, this series of Lenten reflections.

Atty. Peter Irving C. Corvera associates success with significance. For unless our success leaves any imprint on the lives of others, it remains a personal accomplishment. His contention is that success and significance are not dependent on material factors and the length of stay in this world, respectively. Hence, the challenge to make a difference now. He cited the case of Jesus the Christ, whose earthly life was short but significant. The impact of Jesus life on the world and the lives of people is eternal.

Emphasizing service, more than excellence or riches, as something that gives significance to life, he shares the story of his mother. This is where his message penetrates my soul. For I know very well Mrs. Ruth Ciriaco Corvera. How she spent the best years of life on her passion for service as pastor and social worker. Either in church or community, she consistently espouses her development slogan- empower people to reach their full potential before God. I have been a witness to her irresistible commitment. Nothing can stop her, not even problems, difficulties, illness, pains and sufferings. She has given all with seemingly nothing for her old age. Yet, at the age of 82, she was stricken with cancer. Now on the eighth year, six years of which were in stage-4, she continues to think of ways how she could be useful to others.

Every time I think of the life of Ma'am Corvera and others like her, I feel humiliated. Admittedly my wife and I have been devastated by what happened to me. More so, when in crises, we realized our folly of not saving for our own needs. Obsessed in service, we seem to give all. Worse, because one of the major causes of my suffering was principled voluntary work in community and church, especially for pastors. For a year, I continue to wrestle this issue. Now, I realized my experience pales in comparison to hers. Her condition is even worse than mine. Yet, she still has the time to periodically call me and inspire me to hold on and go on with life and service.

When I reflect on the life of Jesus, the more I am humbled in my sufferings. Despite being the only begotten Son of God, He was not spared from the harsh realities in life. Even if we combine all our pains in life, the product falls short to the sacrifices, persecution, betrayal, humiliation, and disgrace he encounters in the name of service. It is in this context that the lent must be viewed, as well as our sufferings.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The State of the Philippine Education (Part II)

Education is supposed to be an equalizer. By the mandate of the Philippine Constitution, the government is bound to espouse a nationalist oriented education that is qualitative and accessible to all. As a transformational process akin to development, education is expected to bring changes in individuals leading to national development. Considering that the Philippines maintains the high literacy rate for decades, we can safely expect to see more educated Filipinos with nationalist fervor and pride.

Research studies, however, prove otherwise. A popular study of Filipino schoolchildren by UP Prof. Maria Luisa C. Doronila, showed that they prefer foreigners as role models. Given choices, they want to live in the United States or Japan. As the school kids grow older, the intensity of preference for other countries and for things foreign increases.

Data in school dropouts vary. The recent, according to Prof. Solita Monsod, is that for every 100 children that enter Grade 1, only 86 move on to Grade 2, only 76 get to start Grade 4, and only 67 will make it to the first day of Grade 6, of whom another two will drop out before graduation. Of the 65 who graduate 58 will transition to high school, but only 42 will graduate four years later.

While there is an improvement from earlier statistics, the increase appears to be less significant when compared to the data two decades ago. In 1991, when pursuing a masteral studies, I had done research on the subject as requirement in our Philippine Social Reality class. At that time, the study of Dr. Patricia Licauan, revealed that only 15 succeeded to get college degree. Interestingly, in reviewing my paper, the same issues and problems continue to beset our Philippine educational system. Among others are 1) quality of education 2) affordability of education 3) goverment budget for education; and 4) education mismatch.

There is a continuing decline in the quality of the Philippine education, as manifested in the performance in national achievement tests. School dropouts are still prevalent, mostly coming from the lower income levels. The Philippines still has one of the lowest budget allocations to education among the ASEAN countries. There is "mismatch" between the product of our educational system and the requirements of labor and industry.

Prof. Monsod describes the state of education in the Philippines as characterized by tremendous input deficits -- inadequate school infrastructure and facilities; very large class sizes; insufficient teaching materials (not to mention problems of quality); inadequate water sanitation and hygiene; and insufficient quantity and quality of teachers.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

State of the Philippine Education

Graduation rites are almost everywhere in the Philippines. As we share the jubilation of graduates and respective families, let us likewise reflect on the state of the Philippine Educational System.

Reviewing my decade long paper on this topic, I find the framework still relevant, particularly the concepts on what education should be. With updated data from some current links, a comparison on what it is now will make us see the gap or the problem.

In most countries of the world, there is a widespread acceptance of the principle that education is a fundamental human right. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 26) states that everyone has the right to education. The 1987 Philippine Constitution recognizes education as basic right of every Filipino. Enshrined in the Article XIV is the mandate for the protection and promotion of the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels and the appropriate steps to be taken to make education accessible to all.

The same constitution relates education and nationalism. Section 3 of the aforementioned Article states that all educational institutions shall inculcate patriotism and nationalism, foster love of humanity, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country, teach the rights and duties of citizens.

This nationalist oriented educational philosophy is expected to develop an enlightened and nationalistic citizenry imbued with democratic ideals, unselfish in their commitment to serve the national community, and proud of being a Filipino.

The third concept points to the role of education as change agent. Education is expected to transform individuals and institutions, systems or structures. Human nature has the tendency to satisfy vested interest at the expense of others. As society develops, the tendency has been institutionalized resulting to a system dominated by a conglomeration of power-hungry cliques. Taking advantage of the passivity caused by innocence or ignorance of the less privileged, they perpetuate a system of control and maneuver the course of events to suit their designs and caprices.

An educated person is one who has undergone the process of conversion within. Such change is expected to radiate in the society. As he/she moves out of the shell and actively contribute to the affairs of the community, transformation takes place. To borrow the words of Sr. Mary John Mananzan, the process of change involves “people steeped in a culture of silence to break through this barrier to a self expression and self assertion that is necessary in the transformation of society where the few decide for the many.”

Finally, education is akin to development. It brings new knowledge, ability and skills in continuous technological, managerial and organizational improvement. Subsequent economic growth is expected in a community or society of educate people. Moreover, education helps build an atmosphere conducive to development. As educated persons are assumed to respect law and order and foster relationships.

Given the assumptions above vis-à-vis the statistics placing the Philippines among highest literacy status, we can safely expect to see developments in the lives of Filipinos.

Present reality, however, shows otherwise. Details in the next blog

Sunday, April 10, 2011

True Service

Last Friday, I had the privilege of being the speaker of the First Commencement Exercise of the Negros Theology Seminary (NETS). Despite my health condition, the administrators requested for a recorded video message. Most of the administrators and faculty were former students in the Master of Socio Pastoral Ministries.

Let me share the main points to the readers. The scriptural basis for the message, as requested, was Luke 5: 1-11. Using the acronym of the seminary -NETS, I have organized my points in the context of the story, as follows:


1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a] the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.

The first two verses present the needs of people and Jesus, as well as that of the fishermen. Jesus needs a pulpit to satisfy the cravings of the people for God’s words. In finding a boat, Jesus ably meet the needs both of the people and the owner of the resources. For Jesus also knows the needs of Simon and company. He understands that Peter and his coworkers are capable of bringing in a huge catch. But the problem is that they are absolutely convinced nothing is there to catch, having spent the whole night.There’s a need to overcome their pride.


3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

Such is the encounter of Jesus with the veteran fishermen. After the paradigm shift of using the boat as pulpit, Jesus moves on to the next level of change. In the guise of gratitude for the favor, he encouraged Simon to resume fishing for a compensated catch. With reservation grounded on experience and expertise, Simon dared to risk another attempt. Surprisingly, the cycle has been broken by such paradigm shift. An overwhelming catch rocked their boats.


8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”

Humbled by the encounter, the veteran fisherman bowed to the carpenter’s son. It is safe to presume that Simon might have under estimated Jesus. A transformation takes place in Simon’s heart. But it was just a prelude of the real transformation in the lives of the fishermen. Thereafter they become fishers of men.

11So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

This seals off the transformation process. Instead of savoring the gains of their catch, they forsake all and follow Jesus. Rather than advancing their needs and interests, they serve the interests of Christ – advancing the Kingdom of God.

True service is a by- product of transformation, resulting from a personal encounter with the One who knows our needs.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The EDSA mystery remains unspoiled

This is the last of the series of reflections during the 25th Anniversary of the historic EDSA Revolution in the Philippines on February 25, 2011. Still relevant as the Christendom celebrates Lent.

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 unfold.

Twenty five years after, the mystery of EDSA has not been fully unfold. 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 25 years ago, as cited by Douglas J. Elwood in his book, Philippine Revolution.

Incidentally, I saw the book few days ago before the 25th EDSA Anniversary while cleaning my shelve. It was given as graduation gift from the College of Theology, Central Philippine University in March 1990. I was supposed to graduate in 1984 when the call to respond to the needs of times compelled me to join the Filipino people’s struggle against dictatorship. My political conversion took place while doing pastoral ministry to political detainees in Camp Delgado. Raised up in seemingly apolitical environment, my primary motivation was to witness for Christ. Ironically, I found myself converted to their commitment, dedication, courage and strong resolve in the service of people. Thereafter, commenced my fulltime solidarity work with the Filipino masses until the mystery of EDSA 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.

Relating the mystery of EDSA to our Lenten reflections, St. Paul in his epistle aptly describes the life of 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!" (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The over arching and encompassing spirit of EDSA lives on!

This post is the second to the last series of reflections during the 25th Anniversary of the historic EDSA Revolution in the Philippines on February 25, 2011. Still relevant as the Christendom celebrates Lent.

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 25 years ago reflects the truism of systems theory. Much of the systems theory grew out of the business management literature. According to Cleland and King (1972), several factors have contributed to the development of the systems theory and the system analysis into a distinct field. These factors included new ways of viewing cost efficiency, new management techniques, and the era of the computer.

The key concepts of the systems theory are wholeness, relationship, and homeostasis. Wholeness implies that the product of interaction by the elements within the system is greater than the additive sums of the separate parts. The concept of relationship asserts the importance of the pattern and structure of elements in the system, equally important as the elements themselves. Homeostasis, which is the tendency of the physiological system of higher animals to maintain an environment of organized stability even when its natural function or condition has been disrupted, suggests that most living systems seek a balance to maintain and preserve the system.

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. 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 character of Christians in their attitude towards others. As this is exemplified by Jesus the Christ. His teachings and actions consistently abhor exclusivist attitude. Biblical accounts reveal some of his skirmishes with bigots during his time. In fact, the Gospel of Mark attributes Jesus’ altercation with the temple leaders in Jerusalem as the final blow leading to his arrest and subsequent execution. “On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.” The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. (11: 15-18)

Ted Grimsrud in his blog, Jesus’ Death and the Powers: Religious Exclusivism, has an interesting post on Jesus encounter with religious bigots.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Remembering the cathartic power of EDSA Revolution

The previous post marks the merging of my blog from other site. Today’s article is the first of the series of reflections during the 25th Anniversary of the historic EDSA Revolution in the Philippines on February 25, 2011. It is still relevant as the Christian world celebrates Lent this year.

Lent in the Christian tradition, as Wikipedia explains, is the period of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday celebrated last March 9 to the Easter Sunday on April 24. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus the Christ. It is a period of 40 days of prayer, repentance, almsgiving, fasting and abstinence.

Considered as one of the major liturgical seasons of the Roman Catholic Church, Lent is celebrated by other Christian denominations including Protestant groups. Although the calculation of forty days vary according to respective traditions. It has reference to the experience of Jesus before the beginning of his public ministry where he spent forty days of fasting in the desert enduring temptation, according to the Synoptic gospels.

But the number forty has long been universally recognized as an important number. Its frequency and the uniformity of its association has been associated with a period of probation, trial, and chastisement. For it points to the action of grace (5), leading to and ending in revival and renewal (8). This is certainly the case where Forty relates to a period of evident probation. But where it relates to enlarged dominion, or to renewed or extended rule, then it does so in virtue of its factors 4 and 10, and in harmony with their signification.

Among the Biblical references are the forty days of Moses on Mount Sinai with God (Exodus 24:18); the forty days and nights prophet Elijah spent walking to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8); the forty days and nights of rain in the great flood of Noah (Genesis 7:4); the forty years of the wandering in the desert by the Hebrew people to reach the Promised Land (Numbers 14:33); the forty days reprieve for the city of Nineveh to repent as prophesied by Jonah (Jonah 3:4).

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 unfold.

These three insights summarized my reflections on the 25th Anniversary of People Power. For the past weeks, it preoccupied my mind as past involvements flashbacked in my memory. EDSA recollections and learnings was the focus of my media activities. From radio and CATV programs to academic discussion. In my Live CATV show over CPU Channel, I invited past activists from various sectors who were participants to the pre EDSA struggles. We sponsored a University Forum for consciousness raising and internalization of the celebration.

Cathartic power

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 more than a year 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.