Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year 2012

“Happy New Year”. It is a greeting that though commonly used still packs potent message presaging brighter future come the new year. For I know that 2012 with a clean slate comprising of three hundred sixty six days will uncover the untapped potential that is still in us. Predictions of more intense natural calamities such as storms and earthquakes, of more political tensions and party squabbles, of arm skirmishes and human right violations here and there in the country, of economic depressions and insufficient incomes both individually and collectively, have already been lined up by scientists and business experts. But people remain undaunted. Lodged within them is that deep feeling that all these negative predictions are for people who have hope opportunities for the betterment of their status.

After all for men of faith the answer to our sad plight goes beyond socio-economic analysis and political maneuverings. For the start our faith believes that this God-made-Man gives 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 confusions, and social illusions, that have through these years tightly gripped the soul of our country. Time visited by God gives 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, 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”, when the chaotic climate change with its flashed floods has threatened thousands of lives living in the low land.

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 Christmas experience, plunges himself into action, for he knows that at the heart of this topsy-turvy nation of ours there is the God who in His incarnation definitively took unto himself human history. Christmas has taught him that God has accompanied man in his journey in this world and eventually overcome the negative elements that are in it, death, sickness, and sin included. 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).