ByMs. ARCELI BILE
United Methodist Church/NCCP
Fourth Sunday of Advent, Dec. 20. 2020
PS 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29
2 SM 7:1-5, 8B-12, 14A, 16
The scripture in Luke 1:26-38 tells us the story about the announcement of the birth of Jesus through Mary. Mary, a young girl has found favor in God and was chosen to conceive the Son of the Most High. Mary may have been perplexed at the announcement of angel Gabriel. Nevertheless, young as she was, she humbly expressed these words to angel Gabriel “I am the Lord’s servant, May your word to me be fulfilled.”
We honor Mary’s significant role in the fulfillment of the prophecies about the birth of a Savior that had echoed throughout the Old Testament. This extraordinary event shows that God works with the lowly, and marginalized to bring forth salvation.
Mary may have known the many prophecies about the birth of Jesus. She must have also known that her obedience to God will not be an easy path to take. When her time to give birth came, there was no more room in the inn. So, she gave birth in a manger. She also had to face the fear of a threat that would kill his son about to be born. Mary and Joseph had to go through a long and difficult journey to Egypt to save Jesus from the hands of the tyrant King Herod.
In our present context, there are those who also face difficult circumstances of being women and mothers.They are women activists whose lives are threatened by a misogynist and tyrant ‘leader’ greedy for power and control.
Reina Mae Nasino, a young woman political prisoner was arrested in November 2019. She was pregnant during her time of arrest. When she gave birth to baby River, there were a lot of difficulties and challenges that they went through. The pleas for Reina Mae to be with his new born son and be allowed to stay longer were denied. The prison authorities said they lacked the resources. They also have mentioned various and different explanations as excuses to the rightful pleas. The best interest of the child and the child’s right to her mother’s breast milk were violated. Baby River got sick, consequently the pleas for Reina Mae’s release grew stronger. Reina Mae was not allowed to visit her son under critical condition in the hospital. Tragically, she lost her child. To add pain to the wound, men in uniform displayed no respect to the Nasino family during the funeral. We, along with other church people, have witness how heartless the government is to a grieving mother like Reina Mae.
Amanda Lacaba Echanis, a peasant organizer in Cagayan was recently arrested together with her one month old son. She was charged for illegal possession of fire arms and explosives, the usual charge and narrative against activists and dissenters. She and her son, are still detained in Camp Adurro in Tuguegarao, Cagayan. Human rights group, progressive members of the House of Representatives and members of the opposition senators have expressed their support for the immediate release Amanda based on just, humanitarian grounds.
Mary, Reina and Amanda all have something in common. They are women of courage that braved difficulties and challenges. They are women of strength that can withstand pain and fear, and have fiercely defy threats and state attacks.
When Jesus grew up, he was one of those being accused of “not obeying the law”. He was arrested, tortured, sentenced to death and crucified. What could have Mary felt during these times? Mary stood beside Jesus even at his crucifixion. We have witness Mary’s courage to see his son’s pain and agony.
Reina Mae lost baby River, but she knows that the struggle continues and her hope for her release is kept alive. We have witnessed Reina Mae’s courage that her inconsolable experience will not stop her to struggle for justice and freedom.
Amanda Echanis remains to be strong despite their difficult situation. Her hope springs from the people who support her, her Nanay Linda and of course her baby. We have witnessed Amanda’s courage in overcoming the challenges of being a woman political prisoner, a mother to baby Immanuel and a daughter of a slain peace consultant Randall Echanis.
As Mary is portrayed as a woman that committed to the fulfillment of the Savior’s birth, Reina Mae and Amanda are among the many young women that carry-on Jesus’ mission. They have embodied love and service to God’s people- the poor and the marginalized. They are channels of God’s grace and salvation to those who are oppressed and disenfranchised.
This advent time we celebrate hope. Thus, let us fervently hope that there will be no more mothers and activists who will be arrested based on trumped up charges. We hope that red tagging and vilification will stop. We pray that Reina and Amanda will soon be freed together with all political prisoners. We hope that there will be no more political prisoners. We hope that justice and peace reign among us.
At this time of pandemic and alarming cases of human rights violations, we cling to hope that Jesus is one among us. Immanuel. God with us. That despite fear and feeling of hopelessness, we are certain that our work is not in vain. That Jesus’ mission of abundant life for all can and will continue if there are people like Mary who would dare to take on challenges and tasks that will contribute to peoples salvation. Jesus’ mission to preach good news to the poor, to bring sight to the blind and to set the prisoners free is at hand.
May these prophetic words from Mary give us inspiration and hope as we face these dark and uncertain days.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
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).