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A prophet of the Most High (Lk 1:76): The Church yesterday, today and tomorrow

Rev. Eutiquio ‘Euly’ B. Belizar, Jr., SThD
By the roadside


Rev. Eutiquio ‘Euly’ B. Belizar, Jr.Suddenly, a heavy darkness is upon us.

The sad thing about it is that, while some see how dark it is where we are now, others prefer to see the situation as a prelude to daylight. In fact, most see the darkness as a necessary means to reach the light. I mean the king and his loyal subjects. They see the darkness of drug-related deaths and EJKs (extra-judicial killings) as the most effective way to arrive at the day of freedom from the drug menace and criminality. To those who say that life is sacred, they retort saying that it depends on whose life we are talking about: that of drug lords, addicts and pushers is expendable unless they don’t resist arrest or capture. Anyone or any group that has a contrary opinion must reap the venom of the king’s or his loyal subjects’ ire. And there are diverse ways their lethal sting could be inflicted: physical, political, economic, social media-driven ‘demolition’ operations. Apart from all that, you could also be called a “yellow” agent even when your favorite color is so much like theirs.

Suddenly, the principle to the effect that “the end does not justify the means” is now thrown out the window; in comes the operating principle that “the end justifies any means, even extra-legal and extra-moral.” The democratic pillar principle of the presumption of an accused person’s innocence until he/she is proven guilty has now effectively given way to the presumption of guilt on the part of the accused till he/she proves himself/herself innocent.

And yet the king has lately realized his miscalculation. “Even if I wanted to, I cannot kill them all,” he admitted as he recently asked the nation for another six months to fulfill his promise of a drug-free and a crime-free Philippines. When will all of this end, we ask. No one knows the answer really.

Add to this shadow the sense of the Church in the Philippines, many of whose members have been instrumental to the king’s victorious enthronement, is being torn between belonging to the camp of his most loyal subjects and to the camp of most vocal critics. The tragedy we could find ourselves falling into lies in our eventual giving Jesus Christ the back seat instead of the front. There are already many indicators pointing to this fact. Virtually all of the king’s loyal subjects also become his he-can-do-no-wrong defenders; most of his critics become nay-he-has-put-us-to-shame-sayers. Virtually no one points to or remind us of Jesus Christ and that all his teachings are our prior principles of living. None except our shepherds, individually and collectively as CBCP. And their voice is being met with a thunderous silence all over our islands.

We have been used to calling ourselves the Community of Christ’s Disciples, courtesy of PCP II. The thing is, before we can truly follow Jesus Christ as his disciples, we must first of all, be John the Baptist and constantly prepare the way of the Lord. The reason is that there are just so many rocks and stones in our political, economic and social cultures that hinder us from truly hearing and following the voice of the Master. First, there is the pre-Christian cry for the blood of perceived enemies, criminal, political or otherwise, and its twin sister, another pre-Christian thirst for vengeance. Second, there is the multi-layered dogged drive to achieve political or economic goals, assuring one’s survival and/or dominance, at whatever cost. Third, there is the cynicism that shrinks our desire to do what is right because doing what is right did not solve social problems in the past as opposed to doing what works and what is expedient today. This basically sums up the moral stance of the king and his loyal followers. Fourth, there is also the fear of the consequences of making a moral stance based on conscience. The king does not relish real opposition, and his constant challenge to debate his critics and lecture them on their own not-so-savory secrets intimidate many to silence, including even more powerful people than he (in the world stage, that is). In the hierarchy it is everybody’s knowledge that some are the king’s friends and followers; others, his critics; still others, just by-the-sidelines watchers. Disagreements among them could either create more divisions or deeper examinations of conscience.

This latter is what, I believe, we need. The tension between being an Amos whose loyalty is to the Lord and his Word, on the one hand, and Amaziah, a guild prophet whose loyalty is to the king, on the other, must always end in our realizing what constitutes our authentic prophetic ministry. We must allow Amos to prevail over Amaziah in our midst. The fruit would be John the Baptist once more living and speaking through us as the “voice crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord…’” (Jn 1:23).

Hopefully, when we have said and done our part, the words of Zechariah’s canticle become true to us and our nation:
“In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace…” (Lk 1:78-79).

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