By Rev E B Belizar, Jr., SThD
TIME was when life was deemed so sacred even hardened criminals killed only as a last resort. Now killing seems an ordinary means to get rid of perceived enemies, whether personal, economic or political. Then murderers feared the long arm of the law; now they fear only the law of the long arm. There is a justice system that works especially for people who, in the first place, are well-off and powerful; for most of the poor and powerless clinging to the moneyed and mighty are inevitable options. Sometimes, especially in rural Philippines, it is the only option to survive. The poor and powerless do not as much look at their patrons’ principles, if any, or the lack of them. They simply judge their patrons by the track record of their reliability. When the poor and powerless witness the drama of a Chief Justice being ousted at the instance of a strongman’s instrumentality, they see it somewhat as a battle between powerful haves. Now that the smoke has somehow cleared, the poor and powerless look for the victors and take their side. Unless they do so, their lives and/or well-being could hang in a balance always. Ironically siding with the victors now does not ensure future stability. Victors today could be losers tomorrow. “Never mind,” the poor and powerless say, eyes wide open mock wisdom, “tomorrow is still years away.” They say this, of course, tongue in cheek, because they also know too well tomorrow could spring a couple of surveys away.
It is within this world that the Filipino priest lives and proclaims the Good News.
In the controlled views, uncertain promises and policies of a regime, he holds on to the certainties of the Kingdom of God. As regimes move from fake news to EJKs or assassinations, the priest preaches the “kingdom of truth and life”. As regimes egg on supporters towards killings or violence, bully critics with curses and threats, the priest must uphold “the kingdom of holiness and grace”. As regimes commit and encourage supreme injustices, fan old and renewed hatreds between peoples, the priest has to push forward the “kingdom of justice, love and peace” (Preface of Christ the King).
Priests and religious are like basketball players. To succeed they must shoot and their shots must make it to the goal and the ring through the net. The goal is God’s Kingdom; the ring is Jesus Christ. In basketball the goal and the ring are in the same place. In discipleship God’s Kingdom and Jesus Christ is one and the same. It follows that if we and our society are to be transformed after God’s Kingdom, we must work to change ourselves, our society and its structures after the ways and teachings of Jesus Christ.
No wonder the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines has been aiming at producing priests “who will propel the Church according to the mind and spirit of Jesus Christ to a new and vigorous evangelizing thrust” (PCP II 507). But first they must be promoters of the “interests of their brethren” (LG 18). They must exercise their priesthood in a truly ministerial way, that is, enabling the lay faithful’s royal priesthood to realize itself, sharing in the life and struggles of those who are at the underside of life’s wheel, out of “preferential love for the poor” (PCP II 499).
Human efforts spell only uncertainties; only God’s love is any human’s true source of security. The priest and religious are that security’s mouthpieces and signboards.
Whether or not we are actually who we say we are is an uncertainty that we must pray, and strive to, turn into a timeless certainty.