By PASTOR HAZEL SALATAN, UTS
19th Sunday after Pentecost
Psalm 23:1-6, Isaiah 25:6-10, Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20, Matthew 22:1-14
Filipinos are fascinated with huge community gatherings such as fiestas, birthdays, christenings, and weddings. These are rare moments when families and friends reunite to celebrate victories or milestones, reminisce stories of the past, and create new memories. We love to be together. Surely, most of us want to be with our loved ones. However, COVID-19 has robbed us of these opportunities this year. For a culture that gives worth to family and community ties, this saddens us.
This culture also manifests itself through how President Duterte is being painted as the “Tatay” (father) figure of the nation. The people are compelled to cooperate and be obedient, supposedly for the betterment of every Filipino family. However, this falls in the guise of Quarantine Protocols which have been unmasked as deception. Human rights advocates, farmers, indigenous people, and the poor are killed every day by the State; red-tagging is being normalized among these sectors; freedom of speech and freedom to assemble peacefully are sanctioned. In this time of pandemic, we also witnessed how frontline workers risk their lives for the sake of others; how farmers continually produce food for every family; how teachers sacrifice their own resources for education; and how workers struggle to provide for our economy yet they are always neglected, discriminated, and oppressed. These are just some of the scenarios how martial law is defined and experienced by people during the Marcos regime.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed a corrupt system and culture. The pandemic did not break the system, for the system was already broken. The masses have been suffering way before the pandemic. And it has been intensifying each day. Killings became “the new normal” — punishment to the least, the last, and the lost. These realities challenge us to unite in advocacies, to stand for truth, to work for peace based on justice, and to call for good governance. However, when we are identified as part of these movements for genuine transformation, we become suspects ourselves or branded as enemies of the state.
The King in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet burned down a whole city and killed many people because they turned down his invitation. Only the rich, the propertied, the privileged, and the powerful can throw tantrums and tyrannical fits. Look at what happened to ABS-CBN. Look at the continued harassment and threats against peoples and movements calling for transparency in government. Look at all the Lumad communities and schools that have been bombed and burned to the ground… The King in the parable throws a tantrum-tyrannical attacks, while his loyal minions destroy a city and murder those who have offended him.
The king acts like a king. He is rich, powerful and can host banquets for the people. But he is shamed despite his richness and power. He is shamed again when a man from the street attends the wedding without a robe. So, he went on a killing and burning spree. Does this sound familiar?
My friends, the king in the parable is not God. The Kingdom of God is not like this. Wedding feasts in the Kingdom of God are not like this, as well. The Kingdom of God has food available for every table, where every person is welcomed to eat. The Kingdom of God has its doors open for everyone to move freely.
The King in the parable acted like a Tatay, who is compelling everyone in. But his true colors were revealed when something or someone did not sit well with his interests. And each of us is called and challenged to come together to make sure that his tantrums end, that he is made accountable for all the deaths and destruction he and his minions have brought, and that his reign ends, while making sure that no more tyrannical kings will follow after.
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).