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Christmas in a wounded archipelago

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


Rev. Eutiquio ‘Euly’ B. Belizar, Jr.It is customary for Pinoys to count the days to Christmas Day so as to heighten the excitement leading to its coming. Ordinary people and the media remind one another of the count each day. I don’t know but it hasn’t helped me much because this year, alas, it seems that the closer that Day is, the clearer our wounds are. And it’s not only the gnawing political divide recently made even wider by the Vice President’s resignation from her cabinet post. It’s also the increasing tug of war between the drug war personalities confronting one another in the legal institutions as well as in the main stream and social media.

There is, on the one hand, the specter of continuing protests over the Marcos burial in days past and in days to come. There’s, on the other, the solid-rock position supporting it by the country’s chief executive. The unabated drug-war-related extra-judicial killings shock local and international human rights advocates and the local Church. It has sidelined focus on other and deeper wounds, such as poverty—our ‘excluded poor’ are too many to ignore—and social injustice on which is feeding our ‘non-peace’.

But to me, at least, the more shocking thing to see is the apathy and seeming complicity of the silent majority to the status quo. Analysts say this partly because of people’s unmitigated pile of frustrations over the perceived lack of action by the previous administration(s) against criminal impunity and the neglect of the poor. This tacit approval by the general populace of the escalating EJKs (extra-judicial killings) of alleged drug lords, pushers and users might prove out deepest wound yet.

Like a bloodied face that only emboldens a boxer, it appears to have led to an executive declaration that even threatens human rights advocates’ lives and security for allegedly ‘worsening the issue’. Wouldn’t it be supreme irony for a government tasked to protect and serve its citizens to now become a looming threat to their rights and lives? How deeper can a wound be?

Still, we cannot avoid it, Christmas Day is coming.

Not even the starkness of our wounded-ness can stop Christmas’ and the Savior’s arrival. The star of Bethlehem might be dimmer from view. But it is shining and, even more so, leading the way to the manger. John the Baptist will not be denied his part as he cries out, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord! Make straight his paths!” (Mt 3:3). Perhaps we, our king and our lords might by chance hear him speak, not curses but the truth that we are also to blame for our wounds, that we cannot eradicate great evils by means of even greater evils, that we cannot remain deaf to his message: “Repent, change your ways because the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt 3:2).

Perhaps John the Baptist’s voice might make us recognize the face of sin in our midst, a face that we prefer to see as “mere mannerisms” and “distinctive styles”, a face that does not even hide the “wolf” in a “sheep’s clothing”, that face that shows unabashedly the wolf and its pangs—all of which we would rather dismiss as “the face of frustration over the situation”. Or John the Baptist’s words could lead us to John Paul II’s own that say: “There is only one thing more dangerous than sin—the murder of man’s sense of sin.”

To heed these words is key to obeying the second counsel: “Change your ways!” Doing the second is key to realizing the import of the third: “the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

Individual and societal transformations are never simplistic. But, in the Gospel perspective, they are that simple. Sin’s forays into our islands are inevitable; so is the Savior’s coming; so is his saving work. Let’s make sure our decisions and actions come from the right choice of the right Master. Mama Mary is our model. She chose to follow God’s will, not hers.

To address our wounds, why should we not start by celebrating a truly Mary Christmas!?

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