Sunday, May 15, 2005

Salamat, Fr. Carl...

Sequels are usually less exciting than the originals. In the case of Backpack of a Jesus Seeker: Book Two, it is not. In A Third Look at Jesus, Fr. Carlos Abesamis offered us his construction of Jesus that does not look anything like the blue-eyed blond, liberal messiah most contemporary researchers' works portray. Through nineteen chapters, which he calls "stop-overs," he "travels" through Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and promise of return. But he does not take this journey alone. He walks with companions: fisherfolk, laborers at the picketlines, mothers, daughters, farmers… maraming kasama. In Backpack… Book One, Fr. Carl—as one voice among a community, a symphony of voices—articulated the essence of Jesus and Jesus’s proclamation of God’s reign. Through a series of dialogical vignettes, readers encounter a Jesus who had a bias for the poor; a Jesus who was a rebel, a heretic, and an apostate; a Jesus who did not just die but was executed; a Jesus whom God raised from the dead and thus Immanuel—God-with-us. This time around in Backpack… Book Two, Carl, the Seeker, and the Backpack welcome a host of God’s wonderful creatures (a butterfly, heavenly bodies, mud, gold, jeepney drivers, indigenous peoples, and others) in dialogue. This bigger symphony of voices challenges us to address concrete, earthy issues; issues most armchair theologians can’t even dare imagine: corporate globalization and its disastrous effects; Clarissa Ocampo, Emma Lim and Erap; the Church of the Poor and Good News to the Poor; the evils of human suffering… As in his two previous “Jesus” books, we are not alone in this journey. Jesus is risen. We are never alone.

The Spirit blows wherever it wills, and what Fr. Carl has done in these three books is locate the Spirit at work among the Filipino ochlos (masses) and ptochos (wretched poor); those whom Conrado De Quiros calls the pango, pandak, at negro in the peripheries of many narratives, the voices from the margins. Fr. Carl locates the locus of God’s liberating activity among fisherfolk, farmers, laborers in the picketlines; with those who rejoice in thanksgiving over tuyo, kamatis, kanin and among mothers who want durian for pasalubong; with the religious who offer their lives protecting their students, and among country doctors whose lives teach preferential option for the poor. Through them we get God’s surprises of grace. Sila ay nagsisilbing mga patikim ng kaharian ng Dios.

Salamat, Fr. Carl. I can’t wait for Episode III
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