By PASTOR CARLEEN NOMOROSA
Second Sunday of Easter
Psalms 118: 2-4, 13-15, 22-24
First John 5: 1-6
First John 5: 1-6
John 20: 19-3
We have called Thomas a doubter for so long, even until now. We have judged him for so long, even until now. We have questioned his faith for so long, even until now.
I read the text not without anxiety. How do I connect this Gospel scripture with what is going on in our society?
Last week I talked to one of our clients, Jason. He is a person living with HIV since 2013. I talked to him to get the necessary information and assess his situation for us to extend needed assistance.
He worked as an agent in a BPO company. His job allowed him to send money to his family back in Quezon province but the pandemic made it hard for him. When the government imposed a strict lockdown last year, Jason was one of the many who got retrenched from work. Since April 2020, he was jobless.
Jason is a person living with HIV. And of late he is infected with COVID-19. He went to six hospitals. All of them denied him the medical attention he needed.
Now, Jason can be kicked out of his apartment because he couldn’t pay the rent while he is literally fighting for his life.
This is just one of the many stories of people living with HIV, now compounded with COVID-19 infection. This is just one of the many stories of ordinary workers.
These kinds of stories bother me from within. It wounded me and I am far from binding the wounds. What the heck is happening!
What the hell is this government doing? We are literally in hell. People are dying every day. Every time I hear stories like these, I couldn’t speak of anything but, “my Lord and my God what did we do to be in this situation. Don’t we deserve a better government?”
Last March 28, 2021, three weeks after the nine activists in Southern Tagalog were killed in multiple dawn raids, which rights groups dubbed as Bloody Sunday. And roughly a week after, another human rights activist, a union leader was killed.
His name is Dandy Miguel. He was the vice chairperson of PAMANTIK-KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno) and president of Lakas ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng Fuji Electric-Olalia-KMU.
Dandy championed the rights of ordinary workers. He was a labor organizer.
He led the campaign for just and right wages for workers who are being exploited by greedy capitalists. Dandy also worked for the emancipation of workers by engaging in issues aside from wage increases.
When the nine activists in Southern Tagalog were killed on March 7, leaders from progressive groups knew for sure that these evil forces are serious in threatening, silencing, and killing them.
But Dandy and other workers who are fighting for their rights are also serious in the work that they do – creating a just and humane society, for the poorest of the poor.
Dandy knew for sure that his life was in danger. But he didn’t stop helping and continued on to support the fight of the ordinary workers.
Eight bullets pierced his body. As I read these on Facebook, no words but, “my Lord and my God what is happening to our country? Those who are helping the poor are getting killed.”
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
These words don’t make sense because my rage stirs me.
It keeps on bothering me. And as a community of faith, as a community that claims to have seen the wounds of Jesus Christ, how he was humiliated and killed by the empire and their minions and allies, how can we forget and forgive all of these?
How can we forgive the system that makes Jason and many others lose their jobs? The system that denied him of healthcare and that essentially denied him of life?
How can we forgive those who use their power to kill people, human rights defenders and activists like Dandy Miguel, and the rest of the rights defenders who were slain during that Bloody Sunday?
As a pastor, I would understand why the loved ones of the victims would not forget, and forgive, the injustice done against their kin. I would not even force them to short-cut the forgetting and forgiving. Yes, I would join them in uttering: until justice is served; until everyone has food on their table; until everyone gets the medical attention that they need; until everyone has fair and just opportunities to work and study and have a quality of life.
In fact, I would not impose on them until their hearts are ready and that justice is done. Not to forget is a way to pursue justice. Forgiveness is about love manifested in justice.
For the longest time, we have questioned and called out Thomas because he wasn’t there behind the locked doors with other disciples when Jesus appeared. We have called him the doubter but we are okay with the other “disciples” behind the locked doors.
We are not okay with Thomas going out, perhaps helping the other followers of Jesus get on with their lives, but we are okay with the “disciples” who tremble in fear waiting for the “signs” of Jesus.
We have called many ordinary workers “pasaway” (stubborn) because they still insist to go out and work even at the height of the COVID-19 cases.
We didn’t call out those who have punished curfew violators for not wearing face masks or face shields. But we tend to be unforgiving to persons living with HIV and AIDS because we believe they deserve this.
The text says, “Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them.” For the second time, even the doors were shut, Jesus came in and stood among them.
I could imagine Jesus saying this way, “What is wrong with you people? I have conquered the world! Come on, get out, help others, reach out!”
Jesus showed his wounds to the disciples, breathed on them, and told them, as the Father has sent me, so I send you.
And today, as we claim to be the believers and disciples of Jesus Christ, let us not hide behind locked doors anymore. Let us be like Thomas who was scared, but still went out of his way to look for other “followers” who needed help more than anyone else. Let us be like Thomas, who wasn’t afraid to see and touch the “wounds” of Jesus Christ.
Let us “see” with Thomas, and join him as he says, “My Lord and my God!”
If you have not “confessed” this by now, maybe you haven’t seen the wounds of Jesus –
We are the new community of followers and believers, but let us not be okay with this “new normal.”
There is nothing normal in letting the poor remain poor, in letting people get denied healthcare, in letting the activists and human rights defenders being called terrorists and get killed.
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).