From Passion to PASSION!

April 10, 2009

Celebration of the Lord's Passion / Paschal Triduum / Holy Week Reflections

There is always a high price to pay for whatever one stands up for. One pays dearly for taking up a cause, a position, an advocacy of any sort. One can believe, more or less, something. One can take up an issue and choose to either be anemic about it, or totally taken up by it. The former, it may be said, pays mere lip service to a cause. The latter pays with so much more than cheap and canned words for it.

The one who does more than give perfunctory and superficial support may be said to lack passion. And one who lacks passion lacks drive. And one who lacks drive can run away from anything when the going gets tough, and when one feels the heat of opposition from within and without.

Back in my younger mountaineering days (it’s really more like glorified backpacking and trekking more than anything!), it was sort of easy to tell the difference between a committed applicant and one who is a mere dabbler. The superficial dabbler would come and go to trial and diagnostic runs and other training events. The committed one who was gung-ho about the whole thing would not only come to those events. He would comply to whatever minimum was required – but would actually do more!

Many years ago, when we started a mountaineering group in Don Bosco in Mandaluyong, a group that was initially meant to be open only to tertiary-level students, there were two persistent high school kids who would hang around wherever the group went, and who would join the group in all training events. At the same time, they kept on badgering the leaders to be admitted to the group. Their passion, more than persistence, paid off. They were admitted well ahead of time. The leaders simply knew they had more than just passing interest. They had it in themselves to ask – and make good what they were asking for. They had passion. Gerry and Jude became official members in no time. And they taught their older counterparts then, a few precious lessons on what it means to be passionate about something that one loves. Jude became one of the mainstays of the group – even up till now. Gerry became a track-and-field star athlete, and paid his way through university doing the very same thing his passion led him to. Jude now continues to contribute to raising the level of ecological consciousness in the firm he works for. And Gerry has scaled figuratively new heights as a lawyer, as an educator, and mentor.

Good Friday is a day filled with so much passion. The lengthy reading of the passion will once more turn off quite a number of people who, unfortunately, would prefer to stay away from Church and official liturgy, and get caught up in the mode of popular religiosity that is far easier to follow, appreciate, and understand. Many Filipinos today, would much rather be tuned in to the TV to see televised and canned “seven last words, “ or mistakenly continue the misunderstood “visita iglesia,” a tradition that ought to have been limited to the hours immediately following the Mass of the Lord’s Supper last evening. A great many who have money to burn, and little love for the liturgy have made their annual exodus to the beaches and mountain hide-aways, far from the madding crowd, to pause and reflect on the holiest of seasons, not so much with passion, as panache.

This reflection will have to take the less beaten track. Much of what people will see, hear, and reflect on today will be about the meaning and significance of the “passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Today, I choose to take the road less traveled by … And this, I would like to do, by starting out with a quote from a lovely poem by G.A. Studdert:

WHEN Jesus came to Golgotha they hanged Him on a tree,
They drave great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham they simply passed Him by,
They never hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do,"
And still it rained the wintry rain that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall and cried for Calvary.

Studdert speaks as much about the passion of the Lord as he carried the cross, as the lack of passion in the hearts and minds of the people of Birmingham. Indifference is what he refers to – that “couldn’t care less” attitude of people who may see the suffering of the Lord, but who are not affected by any of it.

The people of Birmingham, Studdert says, were really very kind. They “never hurt a hair of him … they would not give him pain … they simply passed him by; they only let him die.”

Indifference … this is what is a sore issue in our times. We Filipinos take pride in having the best and most comprehensive laws on ecology, I was told. Our new constitutions of 1987 made sure of that. In the aftermath of the now lamented, unfinished, and incomplete “People Power” revolution of 1986, we made a knee-jerk reaction to set many things aright. We got rid of Ali Baba alright (although the 40 thieves are back with impunity in all branches of government, national and local!); we made sure that human rights are brought back to national consciousness, along with so many other things.

But indifference, as far as I can tell, has taken the better of us in many ways. Even as our laws make sure we got our priorities right, all our waterways, lakes and rivers, including Asia’s biggest fresh-water lake, are fast becoming marsh lands and our forests fast being turned into politicians’ logging concessions and the playgrounds of the rich and the famous.

Indifference … this is what is the run of the day in our times. And I don’t speak only about the moneyed and the well-connected … I speak, too, of the hoi polloi who are not bothered anymore that all sidewalks all over the country are fast becoming extensions of private homes’ garages, perpetual dumping ground of old vehicles, “officially-sanctioned” market stalls which block the sidewalks and push the people out in the streets to compete with motor vehicles; or an unofficially accepted free-for-all billboard world, where tarpaulins galore of faces of politicians and politicians-to-be dot the already chaotic landscape of our crowded cities and thoroughfares.

Indifference … this is what we see in all sectors of our society. Just about everywhere, we see trikes and bikes whose drivers seem not to have heard of the rule called “keep right,” and who keep on blocking the already narrow roads, going against the traffic flow within sight of the police and traffic enforcers in their crisp uniforms!

Indifference …. This is what seems to be in force everywhere we go. Government leaders and “public servant” looking the other way … people waxing indignant over big-time corrupt officials but tolerating the small-time corruption taking place right at the tip of their noses, with most Filipinos really guilty of encouraging the culture of corruption in their own little way.

Indifference … this is just another word for what Americans refer to as the “devil being in the details.” We would love to make people power all over again against big time corrupt national officials, but we make no such grandiose plans to eradicate the many little infractions that we, as a people, are all guilty of … the throwing of trash everywhere, the non-compliance with simple traffic rules, the toleration of the culture of giving grease money to a multiplicity of fixers and go-betweens in the chaotic bureaucracy of Philippine politics and public service.

What does all this, however, got to do with Good Friday, you may ask?

Indifference is the exact antithesis of passion. Indifference is all about not caring at all about things. It is all about letting little things go; allowing an inch here and an inch there; an infraction here and an infraction there; a winking of an eye today, and a closing of both eyes tomorrow; a license given to a drug-pusher here today, and a blanket authority to a drug lord tomorrow … The list is endless …

Indifference is nothing else but a culture of sin, with sin reframed as anything but sin!

The passion of our Lord Jesus Christ that Good Friday focuses on, is really all about passion and panache – the opposite of indifference – for the Kingdom! It is all about being committed to “doing the will of the Father.” It is all about climbing up towards the mountain of Calvary, with the full weight of the world’s sins atop his shoulders. It is all about Christ dying for me, for you, and for all the world. And it has nothing to do with indifference!

The world – this country … you and me … we all have grown callous about many things. We don’t cry foul anymore at noon-time shows making fools out of the poor, ignorant people who are led by the nose to make a shot for instant money and stardom, at all costs. We don’t worry anymore about jampacked classrooms to accommodate the teeming masses of poor children who have to make three shifts in the course of a day, in order for them to get a shot at what passes itself off as public education, otherwise known as wasting time together in our public schoools.

We don’t care anymore about the precarious supply of fresh water for as long as investors continue pouring in whilst they destroy our natural resources and level all our forests and mountains in search of the proverbial goldmine!

We are a people grown indifferent and callous. We have become an uncaring lot … a people so caught up in short-terms concerns and we have lost the art of looking out for the bigger picture, the concern, not only of ourselves, but also of future generations yet to come. An old song of The Fifth Dimension says that “tomorrow belongs to the children.” And yet, by the way we do things, by the way our indifference takes the better of us, there really might not be neither “tomorrow” nor “children” to be happily crooning about!

The passion (read: commitment, dedication, deep concern) of our Lord Jesus Christ is beyond doubt. He entered Jerusalem even as he knew he was getting into the Lion’s den. He made his way to the city knowing full well he was entering into an elaborate and determined trap procured by people who preferred to live in the dark. He was a man of passion and dedication.

And the good news is this … His passion brought about his Passion. And his Passion, Death, and Resurrection were all we needed to give us a headstart towards our own journey to our own Calvary … onwards to the seemingly insurmountable stone that blocks our own rising to new life … onwards to our own mountain of ascension to new possibilities and new visions. Christ’s story that unfold today is simply this … If we were to cap this unfolding drama with a title, I suggest it to be : From passion to Passion!


jun asis said…

And thanks. I needed that.
melo,sdb said…
Happy Easter Fr.!
God bless.