Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Man of God

By:  Jonathan Edwards J. Olabre
As lifted from his original  FB post entitled Good Christians.

Days before he (Pope Francis) came here, I had an acrimonious discussion with another Facebook friend. My point was that how come the pope was not issuing anything stronger about Islamic Terrorism after the Paris terrorist attacks. His message was that he condemns violence. That was ambiguous for me. As a leader of the largest Christian denomination, I expected something stronger. I perceived it as weakness and an inability to protect Christendom. After that heated exchange, I offered my apologies and just kept silent. . . . . Although a few of my correspondences with others continued. I resolved to be more circumspect in deference to many of my countrymen whom I have no aim of slighting in any way. That it is just a matter of doctrine and dogma that makes the difference.

We should all be crying because we are all to blame! During that exchange, there were those who cannot condone the course of action that I advocated even though they were my natural allies. In the end I just told them that after the victory against the Muslim Heathens, they can just hold their War Crimes trial and indict me and those like me during the conduct of the war of extermination and annihilation of another civilization. My main point was that nobody cares now what the Romans did to Carthage and our civilization is a result of that. It was one civilization over the other.

So I kept silent and thought about it more. I have no love for liberal agendas and I realized that as I grew older, I tended to be more conservative in my views. A product of learning and experience. And as I reflected some more, I thought about what kind of civilization that I was defending.

The answer came in three stages. When Pope Francis spoke in Malacanang, he made a sweeping condemnation of corruption. No political party was singled out. It was a statement that all those who are in positions of authority have a responsibility not to be corrupt. That they are all equally guilty of allowing a system that takes away from the poor. That a system such as that is not only immoral but an obscenity before the eyes of God and Man. He did not do it in a combative way. No fire and brimstone sermon but what makes it strong is on the manner how he delivered it. It was like an old school teacher, knowing all the tricks of students, aware of styles and manners and methods and say that “You cannot fool God” . Buking ko kayo!

The second stage was on Saturday. Going to Tacloban. He went there inspite of the risks because of the weather. I know how it is like to fly in airpockets and even had on occasion took a flight fleeing from a storm. That was in 1997 coming from Boracay. But this Pope, knew a storm was coming. He knew that danger lies ahead. He knew that the people there were the real reason he came here. He must be here. As he said “Am a little bit late. But I am here” . He deliberately flew into the teeth of the storm. He did not make great statements after hearing the hurts and pains of the survivors. Instead, with a show of great humility, he just kept silent. He knew that none of his words will be enough. He chose to keep all of it and suffer their plight in his heart. He was not after votes and approval. He was there to be able to share the feelings of suffering and despair. He had to learn how it was. As he said, the trip was for him. He discovered that he had to partake of the contents of the cup. He had to be there. A truncated trip because of exigencies and situations beyond anyone’s control, he apologized for leaving early. Many would not appreciate the fact that when the airplane took off at 1:00 P.M., the storm was just 50 kilometers away. Like the distance from Manila to Tagaytay or Dau, Pampanga. At 3:00 P.M. the storm made landfall. It was that close. But there was no bravado involved. I realized that inspite of my idea that he was “ soft”, he had a backbone of steel. He had courage and bravery not seen in the world for many years. It was courage and bravery not borne out of temporal or worldly power but a strength based on faith. If Josef Stalin were alive today, he cannot utter “ how many divisions does the Pope have?”. Josef Stalin cannot fly into the teeth of a storm and leave with its jaws biting at his heels. Mao Zedong cannot say “Power goes out from the barrel of a gun” in the teeth of a storm. It was bravery and courage borne on faith.

The 3rd Stage was when he was at UST. Of hearing the words of Glydell, of a question on why God would allow children to be victimized by prostitution and drugs. I was choking in order to prevent tears. I lit a cigarette and went out the door. My chest felt like it was being held in a vise. Glydell made the unanswerable question. It was a question that I have made myself and heard others who scoff at the thought of a God allowing such things to happen. It was an existentialist question. He could have answered using tracts in the Bible, instances of miracles and even divert the issue. He chose to meet it head on. He said it was a question, not even expressed through words but conveyed by tears. It was a question he has no answer. Again, he showed that he was human and not all knowing. By doing that, he showed that he was not unlike all of us who have such questions with regards to the faith.

But I realized that he actually gave the answer. His answer of “If we don’t learn how to cry, we can never be good Christians.” . As I understand it, it was more than a cry of pity for Glydell and the unfortunate and downtrodden, as I realized, we must cry for ourselves. It is not God who allows such a state of affairs, it is us who allows such. We do it by being apathetic. We do it by selling our votes. We do it for working for a system that creates such iniquities. But most importantly, those in power, economic and political must learn how to cry. Those in government, regardless of political affiliation must cry. The captains of Industry must cry. Crying in this case goes beyond Corporate Social Responsibility. Crying in this case is more than giving scholarship foundations and medical outreach activities. Those who are in power must cry to be able to understand the plight of those who are in despair. Crying entails that they take stock on what they have and what it means to have much in a land where there is want and need for many. Crying for them must mean that they transform themselves not only as agents of change but agents of re-distribution. That they cry because they can afford to eat more than 3 times a day. That they have cars, boats and planes when so many have no shoes. He does not have to directly attack the injustices of this world, attack by naming names. He did it by just showing up. By being an example. He did not say "look at me, look at me and how simple I am" . The bar for faith and leadership has just got a notch higher. Pope Francis sure showed them! No better and louder shout of rebuke and condemnation than the silence of example.They must cry for themselves because whatever they have done, they cannot be good Christians.

That is what it meant to me these past few days. I kept silent and reflected. Not a Vicar of Christ in my belief but Definitely a Man of God.

(The writer claims that he is a Protestant who don't believe in apostolic succession but gave an interesting reflection on the Pope's visit.)

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