Sunday, December 10, 2017

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Reading the Parables of Jesus inside a Jeepney
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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Binding the Strong Man

If parables can get one dead, then this parable is one of Jesus's most subversive.

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first binding the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

One word.Insurrection. Scholars say the kingdom refers to the State. More specifically, Rome and its puppet government in Palestine. The house refers to the Temple. More specifically, the religious elite beholden to empire. Satan, of course, refers to Rome. As a side note: Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea, and Joseph Caiphas, the High Priest, the two people directly responsible for Jesus's execution, were close friends. Both were removed from power in 36 CE.

Historians agree that the "cleansing of the temple" was Jesus and his followers' attempt to "bind the strong man and plunder his house."

Lest we forget, Jesus was crucified as an enemy of the State, as an insurrectionist. The charge, "King of the Jews," supports that. He was crucified with two other insurrectionists or rebels, not thieves or robbers.

We do not like this Jesus.

This Jesus is so unlike the one we grew up with; so unlike the one our colonial masters taught us to obey without question; so unlike the one whose portraits and paintings, usually blond and blue-eyed, adorn our places of worship.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Rich Fool

I read somewhere that Rockefeller was asked how much money would satisfy him. His answer? More. In the part of the Philippines where I reside, there are vast tracts of land, thousands of hectares, owned by one family. In the past three years, according to Ibon Foundation, the net worth of the richest Filipinos almost doubled.

Historians tell us that in First Century Palestine practically all the land was either owned or controlled by the ruling elite. And, yes, this group included the religious leaders.

In the parable, the rich man had a problem. His harvest was so plentiful his barns were not enough to contain them. The solution? Bring down his old barns and build bigger ones. Half of the population then was slowly starving to death. Sharing? Never crossed his mind.

He died that night.

Scientists tell us that 666 billion dollars can address the world's biggest problems: poverty, hunger, illiteracy, health and sanitation... But the world's richest actually spends more and more and more each year on weapons of mass destruction. Last year, 1.7 trillion dollars!

Sharing? Tragically, like yesterday and tomorrow, 25,000 children from the poorest countries, aged 5 and younger, would be dead from starvation tonight.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Fig Tree

For three years the owner of the Fig tree has waited. For three years he was patient. For three years he longed for one thing, fruit from his tree. Three years pass and there were none. So he orders his gardener to chop it down. Waste of good soil. His gardener pleads, "Give it another year. I will dig around it and put manure." Give it another year.

We call them people with "green thumbs." People who love plants. People who sing and talk to them like they were people. People like the gardener who pleads, "Give it another year." People who celebrate the inter-connectedness of all life. People who believe in second chances for everyone.

Then there are people who treat everything as property. As commodity. As disposable. And a handful of them just acquired over 600,000 square kilometers of prime agricultural land. For development. For profit.

And I am sure, they will chop down not just Fig trees.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Two Sons

The Gospel of Matthew used this Jesus parable to address the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of his time (about 60 years after Jesus's ministry). For Matthew's Jesus the tax collectors and the prostitutes were the older son. The religious elite was the younger.

Tatay had two sons, my older brother and I. I have two sons. Thus, the parable of the two sons is quite a personal one for me.

The father asks both his sons to help out in the vineyard. The older said no but afterward changed his mind and went. The younger said yes but afterward changed his mind and did not go.

During Jesus’s time,  the family, the basic unit of Roman society, was run and owned by the father. Augustus, Roman Emperor, was Father of All Fathers. Fathers had the power of life and death over everyone in his family. Everyone was the father's property.

The two sons in the parable both disobey their father. The older by word. The younger by deed. We know that fathers then killed children who disobeyed them. Tragically, there are still fathers today who kill their children for disobeying them. Fathers who treat their children as property.

But not the father in the parable. No one is thrown into places where there is darkness, weeping, and gnashing of teeth. No one is banished. No one is punished.

The father is probably like Joseph, Jesus's father.  Like Tatay. Like your father. I don't remember the number of times Kuya and I have disobeyed Tatay. Growing up, I'm sure Jesus and his siblings did too. I don't remember how many times my two sons have disobeyed me and their mother.

And I think that's the point of the parable. Parents do not remember their children's disobedience because they do not count them. Children are people, not property. And people change. I'm sure there were more times the sons disobeyed their father if we continued the story. But I want to believe that eventually they got to the point where they did not have to be told what to do.