By FR. ARIS MIRANDA, MI
“Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” (Mt. 10, 26-27)
Oftentimes I hear and read from scholarly articles affirming that we Filipinos are resilient people. Being immersed in the humanitarian mission not only in the Philippines but as well as abroad, fellow workers laud our people for being resilient. We proudly say, “subok na matibay subok na matatag” (proven strong proven lasting). This could be a good reason to claim our fearlessness.
However, the saddest truth is that “the wicked is in torment all his days, and limited years are in store for the ruthless …” (Job 15,20). He never stopped tormenting and terrorizing his people. We have been thrilled and trembled by the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of overcoming the torment that most of us are experiencing, it is being aggravated by introducing an out of tune measure such as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (House Bill 6875).
Our most urgent concern is the pandemic, saving lives rather than aggaravating the already vulnerable health condiopn of ur people. . Several of our frontliners are in danger of death, and yet their cry for mass testing remains unheard. Millions of Filipinos are losing their jobs. Some of them are forced to find their luck in the streets by begging and yet they are being arrested for allegedly violating provisions of the Bayanihan Act to Heal as One Law.
Concerned citizens mobilized and exercised their rights as subsidiary to the government, who failed to adequately respond to the pressing needs of its constituents in the spirit of solidarity, an authentic Bayanihan. Yet, they are being arrested and being falsely accused of politicizing and romanticizing the pandemic, not to mention those who are being killed because of red-tagging.
The wicked is weaponizing the law to subjugate dissent and silence their critics—fear and terror reigns in our land.
“But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure, they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion.” (Jer. 20,11). This bold and sincere prayer of Jeremiah brings out in him the certainty of God’s faithfulness. The disappointments, adversities, persecutions have shaken, for a moment, his confidence and his hope, but have failed to suffocate and extinguish them.
Our readings of today, calls each of one of us, the new disciples of Jesus of our time, to fear no one. This the theme of our celebration. It’s a reason for us to be bolder in our witnessing as the new prophets of God.
It’s hard to be a prophet; it is difficult to tell and live by the truth, to raise our voice and denounce what is wrong. It is more comfortable to remain at the margins in silence and pretend not to see and hear what is happening, or to let the others talk. Still, if one wants a real change in our society, a community faithful to the Gospel and more docile to the spirit, if one aspires to a newness of life, prophets are needed. Like Jeremiah, may we have the courage to say what the Lord tells us, even at the risk of life.
The same inspiration that St. Matthew, the evangelist, has when he wrote this Gospel amid the coercion of the people to worship emperor Domitian (81-96 AD). The local authorities, the tentacles of the emperor subservient to power, wanted everyone to bow down and worship the one whom the seer of Revelation calls “the beast” (Rev 13:4, 12).
The Christians defied the order. For this, misappropriations (red-tagging), punishments (warrantless arrest), discriminations (suppression of human rights), and confiscation of properties (deprivation of the right to defend) started for them. Many could no longer bear these constant harassments. They were at the limit of endurance and the looming risk of apostasy. In this challenging moment, the Lord never remained silent.
“Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” (Mt. 10, 26-27).
As a Christian, persecution is not an accident; it is an inescapable fact. St. Paul reminds us in his letter to Timothy: “All who want to serve God in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2Tim 3:12).
In today’s Gospel, St. Matthew highlights three reasons why we must acknowledge our own fears. By our have faith, we trust that we can address them. As disciples, our hearts know well it that our Master is always at our side.
First reason, fear has a positive vital function: it signals the dangers, prevents rash, risky, foolish gestures. However, if it gets out of control, it hinders the courageous actions and resolute choices.
For all of us who embraced Christianity and resolved to follow Christ, fear is often the worst enemy. “It manifests itself in fear of losing one’s position, of seeing the esteem of one’s superiors diminished, of losing friendships, of being deprived of one’s properties, of being punished, demoted, for some even of being killed. Whoever is afraid is no longer free. It is normal to be afraid, but woe to one dominated and guided by fear, one ends up paralyzed.”
We should not be afraid of the external forces, the wicked who sows havoc and fear. What we should be afraid of is the evil that mutes our voices and paralyzes our bodies to move and witness our prophetic calling and faith. This evil is under our full control, and we can extinguish it if we believe in our freedom as we are created originally.
No doubt, it will be a long and painstaking struggle. Most probably, we will not see the seeds of light and goodness germinate, which they have sown with toil and pain. “However, they must cultivate the joyful certainty that the harvest will grow and will be plentiful. Their work will not be in vain; though they are put to death, no enemy force will be able to prevent the realization of God’s Kingdom.
Second reason: “And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Mt. 10,28). “The fear of being mistreated or even put to death is the one who has the power to destroy both soul and body. It is not an external character to us. It is the evil that, since birth, we carry within us. It is the negative force that suggests paths opposed to those of Christ.”
As many of our historic heroic models affirmed that — while they may kill our bodies, and sanction our voices, our dreams and aspirations for a just and lasting peace — the reign of God as opposed to the reign of terror will never die. The consequences might be severe and unwanted, but the gratification is far greater, knowing that what we have done is what we are supposed to be.
Third reason: “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Mt. 10,29-31).
Persecution is a fact, and it frightens us because often it affects us and those around us who may be deprived of the necessary subsistence. Whatever rightful acts we commit, it always has its impact on others because of our fundamental interconnectedness. God knows both the intentions and the goodness that we do. If God knows how to take care of every creature like the sparrows and and look after every strand of our hair, how much more to us the chosen people. No one can escape His love and kindness. He is interested in every creature, even the smallest. The more He will follow the cause of one who is fighting for his kingdom!
Balik-Tanaw is a group blog of Promotion of Church People’s Response. The Lectionary Gospel reflection is an invitation for meditation, contemplation, and action. As we nurture our faith by committing ourselves to journey with the people, we also wish to nourish the perspective coming from the point of view of hope and struggle of the people. It is our constant longing that even as crisis intensifies, the faithful will continue to strengthen their commitment to love God and our neighbor by being one with the people in their dreams and aspirations. The Title of the Lectionary Reflection would be Balik –Tanaw , isang PAGNINILAY . It is about looking back (balik) or revisiting the narratives and stories from the Biblical text and seeing ,reading, and reflecting on these with the current context (tanaw).