Wednesday, November 09, 2016

#MarcosNoHero

Jose Rizal is not buried in the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani.
Nor is Antonio Luna. Not Claro M. Recto. Nor Gabriela and Diego Silang. Not Macli-ing Dulag!
Nobody really knows where lie the bodies of thousands of Filipinos—heroes and heroines—who offered their lives fighting against the Spaniards, the Americans, and the Japanese.
Nobody really knows where lie the bodies of countless students, church workers, laborers, farmers, fisher-folk, comrades—heroes and heroines—who disappeared during the Marcos Regime. And the countless more who have disappeared during the Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo, and Aquino regimes.
Philippine soil from the Cordilleras to Mount Apo is nourished by the blood of fallen sisters and brothers in unmarked, mass, shallow graves. Just like Andres Bonifacio, the First President of the Philippines, who at 34 was executed with his brother, Procopio, and whose bodies were robbed of garments and then thrown naked into a hastily dug grave.
Heroines and heroes, all of them. And each of them are alive. In our collective memories. In our shared history of struggle. In our hearts. In the visions of justice, peace, land, and liberation for all that their sacrifice offered us.
Marcos, on the other hand, is no hero. A hero’s burial does not make one a hero. Never has. Never will.

#MarcosNoHero

Jose Rizal is not buried in the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani.
Nor is Antonio Luna. Not Claro M. Recto. Nor Gabriela and Diego Silang. Not Macli-ing Dulag!
Nobody really knows where lie the bodies of thousands of Filipinos—heroes and heroines—who offered their lives fighting against the Spaniards, the Americans, and the Japanese.
Nobody really knows where lie the bodies of countless students, church workers, laborers, farmers, fisher-folk, comrades—heroes and heroines—who disappeared during the Marcos Regime. And the countless more who have disappeared during the Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo, and Aquino regimes.
Philippine soil from the Cordilleras to Mount Apo is nourished by the blood of fallen sisters and brothers in unmarked, mass, shallow graves. Just like Andres Bonifacio, the First President of the Philippines, who at 34 was executed with his brother, Procopio, and whose bodies were robbed of garments and then thrown naked into a hastily dug grave.
Heroines and heroes, all of them. And each of them are alive. In our collective memories. In our hearts. In the visions of justice, peace, land, and liberation for all that they shared with us.
Marcos, on the other hand, is no hero. A hero’s burial does not make one a hero. Never has. Never will.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

THE PARABLE OF THE WEDDING BANQUET

Why do we identify the King in the parable with God?

The King is a King. He is on top of an intricate system of honor and shame, patronage, property, and privilege. He is rich. He is powerful. He hosts a banquet. His invite is turned down. He is shamed. He gets back at those who shamed him. He has them killed and burns down their city.

Then he gathers the dregs of society to his banquet. He finds one of the dregs not wearing the wedding robe which the King obviously provided (where do you expect the dregs of society to get clothes for a royal wedding?).  The King is a King. He is rich. He is powerful. He is benevolent but he has been shamed again! He has his minions bind the man, hand and foot, and thrown out to where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

And this is how we imagine the Kingdom of God?   

Parables are the opposite of myths. If myths are stories that create order, parables subvert. Parables are subversive speech. The Roman Empire killed Jesus. Historians Josephus (Jewish) and Tacitus (Roman) both report the crucifixion. Jesus was, most probably, executed for the movement he started and the parables he weaved. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

COMING OUT

I would like to believe that the incarnation is really about God coming out. In the Gospel of Mark, God comes out of heaven. One can argue that God actually escapes from heaven. Compared to the Matthean and Lukan versions which state that “the heavens were opened,” the Markan passage states “the heavens were torn” apart. In Mark, God comes out of heaven and does not return!
I would like to believe that the incarnation gives us a clearer vision of who God really is: the God who wants to be one of us; the God who takes sides; the God who is waiting ahead of us in Galilee where many of us do not want to go; the God who loved sinners, prostitutes, lepers, rebels, outcasts, and eunuchs; the God who dearly loved Mary of Magdala, Simon Peter, the Beloved Disciple, and, yes, the young man in the garden; and, finally, God-with-us, Immanuel, the One who will never, ever, forsake us.
I would like to believe that you believe these as well.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

THE PARABLE OF THE SAMARITAN AND THE INN-KEEPER

We know this story already. Surveys show that this story is one of the two most Christians call their favorite. The other is the Prodigal Son. Both come from Luke. Those of us who have read and studied Luke know that this gospel has a particular bias for the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the foreigner, and the outsider…
A man is near death along the bloody way that connects Jerusalem and Jericho and the people we expect to stop and help ignore him. Two people actually help. The Samaritan and the Inn-keeper. Both nurse the man back to health.
In the past 100 days, several thousand people have died. They were near death but because we, like the Priest and the Levite in the story, chose not to stop and chose to ignore them. We chose to let them die. We found them near death, victims of a menace we call drugs, but we chose to let them die rather than nurture them back to health.
In the next 100 days, more will die. Thousands.
Unless we, all of us, decide to be Samaritans and Inn-keepers. We must demand a stop to the killings. We must carry our near-death sisters and brothers to safe places where they can heal. If we do not know how to do this, we must learn. We must open our hands, our hearts, our homes, our churches, our hospitals, our schools, so that we can nurture our near-death sisters and brothers back to health.
And we must do this now!

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

OF GARDENS AND WEEDS

In Memory: Bishop Alberto Ramento
Luke 13. 18-19
Gaius Plinius Secundus (aka Pliny the Elder) in his Natural History 19.170-171 wrote that “mustard [sinapi kokkos] …grows entirely wild… and when it is sown, it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once.”
John Dominic Crossan tells us that the mustard in the parable was a wild weed shrub that grew to about five feet or even higher. Even in their domesticated form they were a lot to handle. Mustard in a well-kept garden not only spread beyond expectations but also attracted birds of all forms thus disturbing the natural balance of a well-manicured garden, with the birds’ unpredictable feeding habits, and worse, their droppings. St. Francis of Assisi, who, as legend has it, was very close to wild creatures, and who, as the story goes, would not even hurt a fly, was also against the pulling out of weeds.
Gardeners, of course, did not want weeds in their gardens. They did not want wild mustard at all cost. They spend time creating the perfect balance in their gardens: putting in the best, throwing out the worst. A well-manicured garden has no room for wild mustard so they cut mustard young and at the roots. The mustard weed though have a way of coming back.
They always do.
The parable likens God’s reign, God’s empire to a weed. It grows where it is not wanted and eventually takes over the place. Jesus, who advocated an alternative culture of radical egalitarianism, an open commensality of free healing and eating, of miracle and meal among the peasant and marginalized communities of Galilee was executed at age 30 when his vision clashed with that of the urban religious and political structures of power in Jerusalem.
The wild mustard from Galilee that sprung in the domesticated garden of Judea, that attracted all kinds of birds that gardeners despised, was swiftly cut down. Do not forget this—The God we worship is an executed God. He was executed by the empire for the life he lived in solidarity with the poor and the stories of compassion he told.
Many scholars of first century Palestine now agree, enemies of Rome who were executed by crucifixion had their naked bodies left hanging on crosses for the vultures and wild dogs to feast on, thrown into mass graves, or hastily buried in borrowed tombs.
Nobody really knows where lie the bodies of hundreds of students, church workers, community leaders, farmers, fisher-folk, laborers, and activists who disappeared during the Marcos Regime. And the countless more who have disappeared during the Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo, and Aquino administrations. Philippine soil from the Cordilleras to Mount Apo is nourished by the blood of fallen sisters and brothers in unmarked, mass, shallow graves. Just like Andres Bonifacio who at 34 was murdered with his brother and whose bodies were robbed of garments and then thrown naked into a hastily dug grave.
All were wild mustard that had to be cut down lest they disturb the domesticity of the gardens tended by the rich, the powerful, and the religious elite the majority of whom take pride in calling themselves, their institutions, and their structures “Christian.”
But Jesus’s vision lives on. And those of the others live on. Today, we especially remember the vision, the mission, and the ministry of Bishop Alberto Ramento. Like his Lord, he was executed by “domesticated gardeners who do not want wild weeds that invite unwanted birds.”
But wild weeds have a way of coming back. When you least expect them. Ask any gardener. You can never completely eradicate wild weeds like mustard. They have a way of sprouting in places where they disturb, disrupt, and dismantle the status quo.
They always do!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Jeepney Hermeneutics

"There are examples, however, of critical theory that is distinctly Asian or a modification of Western modes of thought with Asian interests. Using Western theory and method is inescapable and can even be considered a witting tool, used by the colonized when they try to “write back and work against colonial assumptions, representations, and ideologies” (Sugirtharajah, 1998, p. x). The Filipino Jeepney hermeneutics is one such venture, demonstrating the capacity to transform tools of mass destruction into resources for life (as in the writings of Revelation E. Velunta). Thus while cultural studies is not just an Asian American interpretive mode of discourse, it may be utilized by Asian interpreters in a more critical manner."

(Asian/Asian American Interpretation, Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Gender Studies, accessible online at http://www.oxfordbiblicalstudies.com/article/opr/t453/e1)

Thursday, September 01, 2016

PAIN HAS NO SABBATH

Luke 13: 10-17 10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17


When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing. (NRSV) The Gospel of Luke is a favorite among many Filipino Christians. Two of the best loved parables of Jesus are in Luke, the Samaritan in Chapter 10 and the Prodigal Son in Chapter 15. The Roman Catholic Church’s Preferential Option for the Poor is grounded on this gospel. The UCCP particularly loves Luke 4 (and Matthew 25). Lest we forget, the gospel that Jesus was anointed to proclaim is good news to the poor. And Luke is the best source for understanding the challenge of this gospel that takes the side of those whose only hope is God, of those who need God the most.

Critical parts of Jesus’s mission are to proclaim release to the captives and to let the oppressed go free. Both mean the same thing: liberation! Our reading for today is Jesus doing his mission of liberation. In Jesus’s response to the leader of the synagogue (verse 15) he mentions three characters who are all bound and have to be released. The ox and the donkey are both tied. They have to be released in order to get water. If they are not released, if they do not get water, they might get dehydrated or worse, die. The woman, whom Jesus calls a daughter of Abraham—which incidentally is the only time in the whole Bible that the description is used—is also bound. Satan has bound her for 18 long years. Medical experts who have studied this passage say that those were 18 agonizingly painful years. Whether she had tuberculosis of the spine, spondylitis ankylopoietica, osteoarthritis of the spine, or osteoporosis of the spine, she was in terrible pain. Every single day. She had to be released. She had to be set free.

My friends, the exchange between Jesus and the synagogue leader is not about good and bad. It is about good and good. How do we choose? Justly. The synagogue leader was saying: you can heal her any other day except today. He was arguing: what is one more day of suffering to someone who has already endured 18 years of agonizing pain? That’s 6570 days of pain. What is one day more? Jesus, on the other hand, was saying: why do I need to heal her any other day when I can do it today! For Jesus, suffering is suffering. Why wait for tomorrow when we can stop it today! The synagogue leader’s opinion is justice delayed. Jesus’s retort was justice right now! The woman despite her agonizing pain, despite her suffering went to the synagogue regularly. Did you think for one second that her pain rested during those Sabbath days? Did you think her suffering stopped while she sang, chanted, and studied the Torah? Do not forget this, ever: suffering does not have Sabbaths. Oppression has no rest days. Evil does not rest.

Do you think the suffering, humiliation, and discrimination that Palestinians experience as they go through Israeli checkpoints twice a day stop during Sabbath? Do you think the daily average of 45,000 people, half of them children under 5, who die in the Congo, stop because the killers behind the world’s worst genocide have to go to church on Sundays? Do you think our Lumad sisters and brothers get Sundays off from the displacement, dispossession, and militarization they experience from the AFP, CAFGU, and private armies of mining corporations? Do you think the pains, the suffering, and the diseases that afflict close to a billion of the world’s children caused by malnutrition, poverty, and hunger cease every time they attend mass or praise and worship? Suffering does not have sabbaths. Oppression has no rest days. Evil does not rest!

Thus, the struggle for life, for liberation, for wholeness, for abundant life for all has no rest days as well. This is why Jesus always healed on the Sabbath. This is why he proclaimed release to the captives and set the oppressed free on the Sabbath. This is why we are challenged to do the same! My friends, today is the day of liberation. Of course, we can wait for tomorrow but tomorrow might be too late. Proclaim release to the captives! Let the oppressed go free!

TODAY!