3rd Sunday Easter (B)
April 22, 2012

I don’t know whether being sort of failures in this rat-race world, as the Philippines, apparently is, has to do with believing. I don’t know whether being low on the economic ladder necessarily translates to being high on the belief scale. But as every student of research knows, correlation does not necessarily mean causation, and poverty, or being collective failures in the political and economic scene, ought not be taken as the cause of our very high belief index.

A recent US write-up puts the United States and the Philippines as among the countries who believe most in God, with the former at 81 per cent, and the latter at 94 per cent. The US have had a long history of prosperity. The Philippines have had a long story of collective poverty and political pain. The overwhelming majority of both countries claim to believe in God.

Why do I write about this on this third Sunday of Easter? Simple … the Gospel passage from Luke, whilst sounding eerily like the Gospel passage last week, adds a further detail … The Risen Lord asks for food (some fish), and eats with his disciples. He breaks bread with frightened seeming failures all, who followed him and his teachings until He was put to death via summary execution.

I don’t know how much longer the US and the Philippines and other countries who top the list of believers in the world can hold up to the various “hungers” that the world now presents. For one, there is hunger for supremacy. The North Koreans are offended that the rest of the world did not look too kindly at their incursions into space, firing off a rocket that disintegrated two minutes into the flight, threatening “war” against what they call “traitors.” China is bullying the Philippines and the rest of those who hold stakes at uninhabited shoals more than a thousand miles away from them, and just less than two hundred miles away from the Philippines.

There, too, is the hunger of unrest in mid-eastern countries, heretofore, bastions of stability under dictators, but now teetering on edge on account of a new wave of enlightened, digitally managed “revolutions.” Consequentially, for poorer nations like the Philippines who are heavily dependent on oil, the unrest of insecurity and instability owing to unmanageable inflation and the rising prices of basic commodities, begins to rear its ugly head, threatening other forms of instability in a people who, for the most part, are living a hand-to-mouth existence for more than half a century.

Like the disciples gathered in the Upper Room, we are more than just frightened. We are also hungry … uncertain … full of questions and all.

But wait … We also believe eminently that there is a God. We are a people blessed with a strong faith, even if, at times like these, faith in Him seems all we have, when everything else, including faith in a dysfunctional political system, and in a corrupt-laden system of leadership and governance, all seems to follow the way of the fearful disciples huddled together in the Upper Room.

We are hungry. We are suffering. We are uncertain, and we, definitely, are also frightened.

This is the backdrop of today’s good news. The Risen Lord appears to the same fearful and uncertain bunch of believers. But I take it you noticed, that being fearful does not necessarily mean being unfaithful. I take it you noticed, too, that being frightened and uncertain does not necessarily translate to being unbelievers, even as, in the case of the United States, being prosperous does not necessarily mean people no longer should believe in God, that they can do most everything without God, and that a prosperous life is an automatic block to believing.

I got this piece of good news for you … The Risen Lord comes precisely to the aid of those who are frightened and fearful. And what is his response to this? He asks. He begs. He requests the help of those who seemed helpless, the seeming failures, the frightened disciples who were deep in confusion. He asks for food. And wait … he does more … He eats with them … reminiscent of the breaking of bread at the Last Supper … reminiscent, too, of the breaking of bread with the two disciples on their way to Emmaus.

I am frightened. I am fearful. Uncertainty still hangs heavy in the air … everywhere in the world. A politics of vengeance fills the daily news where I am. A politics of parties with the horns of opposition and rebellion locked neatly in a perpetual struggle characterizes the life of people in many countries. Bullying and political terrorism seem to be the run of the day.

But lest we forget ... We are not just fearful. We are, also, sinful. We are sinners. And sinners are not very friendly to God. We make unjust laws, and if we had just laws, we skirt around them. We are corrupt , and corruption happens in our country from top to bottom, even if we lay blame only on certain big fish, and are vociferous against them, partly to cover up for our own sinfulness.

We believe in a Risen Lord, but we are not necessarily risen in our failures. We are not necessarily fed in our hungers. Many of us, claim to believe, and yet not strive to belong. Many of us believe in a personal God, but not in a God who chose to act in and through a Church, a community of believers, where believing ought, first and foremost, show itself in total belonging.

The Risen Lord reminds us once again. “Peace be with you.” He asks us, then, and now: “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?” From the hungry, He asks for food. To the failures, he offers food and camaraderie. To the unfriendly, He proffers the intimacy of friendship that can only come from the Eucharist – the fractio panis, the ritual and sign of the breaking of the bread. To sinners, He continues to offer salvation.

That is who we are … hostile and unfriendly … fearful and sinful … The Good News to people like us? … food to failures; friendship to the unfriendly, and salvation to sinners!

“Lord, let your face shine on us!”