Lenten reflection: A call to compassion
He wanted change during his time. He started with pointing out that “change” should start from the heart, conversion. He abhored the pharisaical attitude of leaders and ministers.Jesus’ story of struggle, is real and biblical.
He showed courage and sacrifice to the Roman cronies. He affirmed that commitment to the struggle involves dying and sacrificing of self, and be able to manifest redemption in the midst of suffering and death.
In the words of Pope Francis: “Because this is the heart of the Gospel, and I am a believer, I believe in God, I believe in Christ, I believe in the Gospel, and the heart of the Gospel is the poor.”
“And because of this I believe that the poor are the center of the Gospel of Jesus. This is clear if we read it,” Pope Francis affirms with conviction.
Church of the poor?
A period in Philippine Church History embraced a Latin America inspired “Church of the Poor.”
To a greater extent, priests, religious and lay people embraced a more radical way of being with the poor. Before embracing the Marxist ideological stance, they were much more involved in farmers’ and land reform concerns; they were along with the poor in the urban and rural areas organizing pockets of social-consciousness building.
The Philippine Priests’ Forum, Christians for National Liberation, Gomburza, Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace, Promotion of Church Peoples’ Response were the vanguards of mainstream pro-people struggle. While becoming more involved in the peoples’ struggle theirs are rooted in the Christo-centric approach in reading the Gospel, with a transformative vision of achieving the goal of changing society.
To date, some are continuing their advocacy. Personalities in the church, emerged in the pro-poor struggles – Antonio Fortich of Bacolod, Francisco Claver, Louie Jalandoni, Edicio dela Torre, Karl Gaspar, among others.
Being Poor in the Church was adapted as a mainstream stance in the currents of Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II), the Church of the Poor was clearly outlined in both theological and pastoral aspects.
“We achieved the discussion and dialogue of making a Church of the Poor in PCP II, but we stayed on that level; it has never reached into acceptance and action among our church people,” said Fr. Gilbert Billena, O’Carm, parish priest in Old Escalante, Negros Occidental.
Realities and response
The Philippines’ urban and rural settings are indeed landscapes of social problems.
The many terms of elected presidents never ever made a work plan related to housing development for poor residents in both rural and urban areas. In the urban areas, the danger of narco-politics is already at the threshold of our society. In the rural areas, the poor suffers all the more.
The issue on land reform never gained ground at both the elite dominated Congress, even in the Executive branch.
The looming hunger among our people in the rural areas, are scandalous enough in terms of relating it on how our political leaders are spending their money on houses, cars and caprices.
Corruption has become the consistent face of evil politics.
“We are the 99%” This was the loudest cry of the Occupy movements worldwide. The many who suffered from economic and political failures are the ordinary working individuals, and yet the 1% makes all the profit – more and more.
Compassion is key
Compassion remains a consistent “praxis” model. Pope Francis’ magic is never the endorsement of an existent “revolutionary” theology or system of thought. Basically it is “compassion.”
Persons, institutions or any other organization can make a mile of difference.
According to him "When stock markets drop ten points its ‘a tragedy’ but starving children, homeless people dying on our streets, people disposed of like trash - such as the unborn or the elderly - has become the norm."
The earliest and effective form of grassroots compassion, was manifested in the organized Basic Christian Communities in the many dioceses in the Visayas and Mindanao areas. " A culture of solidarity should prevail over our culture of waste, because when we care for and cultivate creation – including the human person – when we share our resources, we all have enough."
It’s not too late for the Church to revitalize its pro-poor and pro-people stand in engaging with the currents of society.
We have the same problems and even more challenging ones compared to the 60’s and 70’s. We still have to achieve the greater areas of emancipating the cries of the oppressed – for housing, for education and for health care.
These are our alternatives:
A call to compassion. Today, we see a Church bruised with the many pains of scandals. Indeed the Church has to start the renewal from within, the compassion from within. If not, she will just be the same with any bureaucratic institution or just like our government who lives and runs by the corrupt lives of our officials.
It is from here, that Pope Francis blows his “winds of change,” a compassion from a compassionate Church. Jesus discovers his strength from the agony of his suffering and death, and the cross became meaningful for him. We expect a forgiving Church, yet uncompromising in the work and promotion for justice, peace and integrity of creation. We expect a participatory Church, always working to enhance the quality of life for people and communities.
We expect an engaging Church, working to ensure the protection of peoples’ rights and struggles. We expect a loving and welcoming Church, always willing to embrace individuals, people and cultures.
A call to witness. We have to exude witnessing in our commitment as christians. The prophetic image of the church must emerge in an oppressive, corrupt and immoral society. Witnessing sets a credible image of a poor Church, distancing the view of favoring the rich and powerful in society.
A call to action. We respond to any act of oppression, the Church is the first social mover in the face of injustice. Fomenting engaged action on issues related to social justice, human rights and ecology. These are foundational values that is making the Church relevant, effective evangelizer and at the heart of peoples' struggle.
This Lenten season calls for a personal and communitarian reflection on how we live our faith in the realities of making a relevant witnessing that is truly transformational. Where the cross becomes a real symbol of sacrifice - for others.
Where the cross is not an exclusive symbol but rather a sign of openness and understanding. Where the cross cannot be an emblem of conflicts and disunity but of peace and connectivity.
Where the cross cannot solely be for the rich and powerful but for all - even to those who have none.
Where the cross cannot only be for Christians but also for others who believe in Christ's transforming love. Where the cross reaches to those who are oppressed and always giving hope to those who suffered. – Rappler.com
Br. Tagoy Jakosalem, OAR, is a visual artist and sustainability educator. He studied philosophy, finished his theology in 1999, and has been active with the Climate Reality Project of Al Gore. He was instrumental in the formation of heartanonymous.org, an organization involved in holistic rehabilitation response to the families who survived in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).
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