Reading the Bible inside a Jeepney: Celebrating Colonized Peoples' capacity to beat swords into ploughshares, to transform weapons of mass destruction into instruments of mass celebration: mortar shells into church bells, teargas canisters to flower pots, rifle barrels into flutes... U.S. Army Jeeps into Public Utility Jeepneys.
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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.
Thank you very much for all your generous support. Maraming salamat po!
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During its Holy Week Sale last March 22-26, the book went back to #1 in New Testament Criticism, #4 in Biblical History and Culture, and #7 in Jesus, the Gospels, and Acts.
If I said Jesus has cancer. Or diabetes. Or asthma. No one will give a fuss.
I have, in the past, argued that Jesus might have been gay, a woman, a Palestinian, and an African.
But most of us have problems when we hear that Jesus has AIDS. Because we have been socialized to identify AIDS with promiscuity, with illicit drug use, with divine punishment, with sin. And the Jesus many of us worship cannot be promiscuous, will not touch or even be in the same room with weed, and, of course, is a perpetual virgin, and sinless.
What is the international symbol for HIV AIDS prevention?
When you turn the red symbol on its side, what does the symbol represent?
My dear friends, the world has AIDS. Close to 40 million of our sisters and brothers are living with HIV. About 1% of all our sisters and brothers, aged 15 to 49, are living with HIV.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, 35 million of our sisters and brothers have died. One million last year.
Tisoy, when you went out to buy load last June 15th no one expected that you won't be able to come back home. No one expected that you will land in jail. No one expected you will die a senseless, violent death shortly thereafter. Not you. Not your loved ones. No one!
No one expected you, a young man who walked 17 steps from where you lived to buy prepaid cellphone load, to be arrested for alarm and scandal. And no one expected you to be beaten to death while in the custody of those legally sworn to protect you. NO ONE!
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A culture of impunity pervades our world. Worse in our country. The present dis…