A WORLD OF FRAGILE PEACE & EMPTY PROMISES

8th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
February 27, 2011




Just two days ago, the Philippines celebrated the 25th anniversary of the so-called peaceful PEOPLE POWER revolution that toppled a dictator's government, infusing fresh hope to a people subjected to suffering for so long. As history proves, the event was a trendsetter. Whether or not people everywhere acknowledge it, the fact is that the event set a precedent followed in so many other places soon after, not excluding the recent spate of "revolutions" that have hogged the headlines over the recent weeks all around the globe.


It was truly a gift of the Filipino people to the world - a peaceful way to effect change.


However, 25 years after, it is up to us now to grapple with the nagging question whether change really had taken place ... or whether what we call a peaceful revolution had really caused a massive change in our people's values and political systems that supported or bred, or nurtured the very reasons that brought us all out in the streets crying passionately for change.


I find today's opening prayer deeply touching and meaningful in the light of what we just celebrated: "Send us as witnesses of gospel joy into a world of fragile peace and broken promises."


The whole world knows by now how we shot ourselves in the foot, not once, not twice, not thrice, but so many times, soon after that. Barely three months after the historic event, military adventurers who thought of themselves as rampaging messiahs started the trend that was to be repeated many other times - coup d'etat, or forcible attempts at wresting power away from the civilian government. Not a single one of those military adventurers has ever said sorry for having done so. Not a single one of them has accepted the fact that they have done a disservice to the people in the long run, and their quiet quest for peace, buoyed even by the broken promises of those they had pinned all their hopes to.


The first reading strikes me like salve applied like a soothing poultice to a festering wound of disappointment ... The Lord reveals himself as a "mother" who can never forget her infant, a caregiver who will never disappoint, a parent who will never fail to deliver.


The whole imagery strikes me as deeply personal. When my mother died unexpectedly at 63 many years ago, I was devastated. It took me ten years to grieve over her death. It was a case of complicated mourning, made so by my feelings of disappointment, expressed or unexpressed, acknowledged or unacknowledged, known or unknown to me then. I knew then that I was often angry with her for little things, trivial stuff, childish matters. She did not deserve any of it. But neither did she forsake me as her son. She never forgot me. She never for once despised me. She continued on, fondling me with her brightest hopes and showering me with her loftiest dreams for me. She was a mother. Plainly. Simply. Undeniably.


The Philippines has been acting like I was acting, a spoiled brat, an angry, intractable people, who cannot get their act together. We have not shot ourselves in the foot alone. No ... we have gone right back to our sinful ways, like as if EDSA I never happened. We went right back to where we started, right back to the very reason why we gathered en masse at EDSA.


The mind-boggling "business interests" of top military honchos, along with their wives and other friends and relatives, along with so many other unresolved scandals that have gripped the nation over and over again, remind me of the reality of the world in which we belong, a world that has given us common cause to gather together today and pray ... a world of fragile peace and broken promises.


But the readings today offer more than just a soothing salve of wishful thinking. It offers us a spirituality, a spirituality that makes us acknowledge the reality that evil and good can co-exist even in each one of us here, a reality that should make us shun the tendency to divide the world into bad guys and good guys, with us on the side of the good. No, it is a spirituality that makes us grapple with the reality that we are all actually capable of doing good and evil, that sin is always a reality that can rear its ugly head in each of us, that we are all capable of doing great things and doing dastardly acts ... that we could follow the way of the pusilla anima, or the way of the magna anima... that we could be at one time, pusillanimous, and at another time, magnanimous.


I was being pusillanimous by allowing anger to get the better of me and staying cross with my mother for some time. But she was being magnanimous in understanding my hurts, my disappointments, and not taking things against me.


This is the magnanimity of spirit that leads us now, despite the disappointments and the experience of "broken promises," to declare before God: "Rest in God alone, my soul." (Responsorial Psalm).


Twenty five years might look like a long time, and we are running out of patience. In the words of Hopkins, after twenty five years, "hope is growing grey hairs." We can lose hope and optimism. I certainly do. I don't know about you.


But the spirituality that God rouses us to, today, is one that gently reminds us, as St. Paul does, "not to make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes." He tells us to wait some more, wait actively in hope, "for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts."


The same gift of spirituality tells us to be wary of serving two masters: the God of hope or the demon of desolation and utter disappointment. God tells us to be solid in the allegiance of hope, no, not to mammon, but to Him alone. "Rest in God alone, y soul."


That same gift of spirituality tells us not to be enslaved by worry, and behave more like carefree birds who trust and are never disappointed.


That same gift of spirituality tells us most of all, to look beyond ... not to be imprisoned in my pusilla anima mode, but to let oneself loose in the spirit of magna anima, like my mother who did not give herself to anger in retaliation to my passive aggression.


The stories that hog the headlines and inundate TV and cyberspace are sure disappointing. They are even embarrassing, to be sure. Millions of dollars given as aid, end up being pocketed by very good military men turned businessmen with unlimited ROI. There are reasons to be angry. There are even more reasons to lose hope and just give up this world of "fragile peace and broken promises" as bad job.


But let us all be magnanimous. Let us all look beyond. And let us put first things first: "Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides."

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