Thursday, March 20, 2008


As the light of the Paschal Candle pierces through the murky night of Holy Saturday, ushering on its break the lilting mood of the Easter Vigil that exudes in the song of the “Exsultet”, the people of faith plunges once again into the deep darkness of the Liturgy of the Word to carefully listen to the words of promise and of hope. It is in this holy darkness that the word of God starts again dispelling the chilling fear of death that has for so long terrorized the heart of man, slowly filling it up in an ever increasing intensity with the message of ‘God cares’ and ‘God saves His people’, that soon would blare into the proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus, bursting into songs of jubilation and “alleluia”. For Christ is Risen! Christ is truly risen!


But back to reality. Is it really possible to celebrate a happy Easter in the midst of all these social turmoil and political mess? At times we begin to wonder if it remains reasonable to be optimistic about this country. The fact is that many of us have become cynical, refusing to believe that change can still take place, refusing to hold that a better life is still possible. In fact, some people have long given up – they chose to look for greener pasture elsewhere. Can the citizens of a morally shaken country such as ours capable of genuinely greeting each other with greetings of “Alleluias” and “Rejoice, for Christ is risen”?

The answer is why not? After all the Church sincerely believes that the answer to our sad plight goes beyond socio-economic analysis and political maneuverings. For the start our Church believes that this deep Easter experience of the risen Christ would give us the stubborn hope that blossoms best in moments of darkness and ambiguity; that it would give us the needed courage to pick up again the communal problem of searching for the truth that we have temporarily left off; that we can readily face up to the moral problems, political ambiguities, and social illusions, that have through these years tightly gripped the soul of our country. The experience of Easter could give us the hope to extricate ourselves from the sad situation that we are in, the time when work is scarce, when families are so poor they can no longer live with dignity and little pride, when the greed of those in the corridors of power has drowned away all their shame and decency, when corruption has become “our greatest shame as a people” (CBCP, “Reform Yourselves and Believe in the Gospel”).

This hope is dynamic, alive, vigorous. It pushes us to action. It is alien for people of hope to say that the event of our times is inevitable. A Filipino Christian, whose spirit is soaked with the Easter experience, plunges himself into action, for he knows that at the heart of this topsy-turvy nation of ours rests the love of God. Easter has taught him that God has overcome the world. As Jesus said: “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world” (Jn 16:33).

By action here is meant concrete involvement in the unfolding of our history. Christians who possess the seed of hope in their hearts cannot be passive or indifferent bystanders in the drama which we call “everyday life”. “We can open ourselves and the world and allow God to enter: we can open ourselves to truth, to love, to what is good” (Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, 35). “Even when we are fully aware that Heaven far exceeds what we can merit”, the Pope says, “it will always be true that our behavior is not indifferent before God and therefore is not indifferent for the unfolding of history” (35). Even when we seem powerless before the enemy, “our actions engender hope for us and for others…” (35).

In other words, the more we engage actively and constructively in the efforts to improve society, the more we make alive the hope that is in us. Conversely, the more indifferent we are, the more cynicism destroys our capacity to dream for a better, renewed life.

And when we act, when we actively involve ourselves in the unfolding of history, the element of suffering becomes all the more unavoidable. Being a consequence of our finitude, suffering is already inevitable, but it can swell into horrifying levels when we labor for truth and justice. We can perhaps minimize it by leading a life of utter indifference. We can close our eyes from falsehood and tyranny, and spare ourselves from hostility.

But is this the Christian option? The Holy Father says, “It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love” (37). And with a rather stunning emphasis, he repeats at least three (3) times in the encyclical that the capacity to suffer for truth and justice is an essential criterion, the very measure, of humanity (cf. 38 and 39). To abandon this capacity would destroy man himself. “Truth and justice must stand above my comfort and physical well-being, or else my life itself becomes a lie” (38).