By Prog. JERRY IMBONG
Religious Discernment Group(RDG)
June 27,2021 *Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time *
Psalms 30: 2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13 (2a)
Wisdom 1: 13-15; 2: 23-24
Second Corinthians 8: 7, 9, 13-15
Mark 5: 21-43
Sickness and death have become a common occurrence since Covid-19 wreaked havoc early last year. Seeing a person suffering from sickness is unbearable, especially if he or she is a close friend, a relative, a loved one, or a member of the family. Our parents died last year (our mother in June and our father in December). Their death was not due to Covid-19 but still it was unexpected and shocking for us. Indeed, death comes unexpectedly.
Just recently, I witnessed the death of two significant persons: one, an 80-year old former priest and NDFP consultant Fr. Rustico Tan and the other a former president of the country, Benigno Aquino III or Pnoy. The former spent most of his life serving the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized; the latter belonged to a wealthy political clan and landed class in Tarlac. Fr. Tan was brutally murdered by unknown assailants in Pilar, Camotes, Cebu. Pnoy succumbed to kidney failure due to diabetes according to family members. Nevertheless, their deaths also came as a surprise. Who would want to kill an old former priest who spent the remaining days of his life with poor farmers and a bunch of fisherfolks in a small island? Pnoy’s death likewise puzzled me. His death caused some divisions among the people. Undoubtedly, an overwhelming majority of Facebook friends expressed sadness and grief over the loss of a former president whom they described as an “icon of democracy” and a “true servant of the people”, Apparently, they believed that Pnoy continued his mother’s legacy of “restoring democracy” in the country. On the other hand, his death elicited a series of resentments among “the victims” of his presidency. What matters most, and what will be remembered is not how you died but how you lived.
Interestingly, our gospel for today is not about death but about life. However, a closer look at the main persons involved in the gospel narrative reveal seemingly contrasting figures: Jairus, the father of a young girl is a leader of a synagogue, most likely wealthy and powerful, male and head of the family. The other figure is a hemorrhaging woman, having a menstruation for 12 years, considered perpetually unclean according to Jewish Levitical laws. According to Mark, “she suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” From this, we could surmise that she was an outcast and a victim of medical exploitation. Moreover, Jairus (a male) was called by his name while the other was simply referred to as “a woman”. Both Jairus and the unnamed woman showed strong faith in Jesus: Jairus professes his faith verbally/outwardly and the woman silently—and both experienced miracle in their lives. The woman was liberated not only from her bleeding and affliction but from the “uncleanliness” and the social stigma that came with it. The miracle that happened is not just physical healing but a restoration of life. Jesus has the power to alter our inhuman conditions.
The woman’s illness is associated with blood. In some cultures, blood is a symbol of life, while in some, it connotes impurities and death. Blood has been closely associated with the Duterte regime. His “kill, kill, kill orders” have resulted in thousands of deaths, mostly victims of extra-judicial killings. His war on drugs targeted mostly people from poor communities. Consequently, the tokhang-style drug war extends to individuals and groups critical of the Duterte administration. The so-called drug war evolved from targeting suspected drug personalities to silencing political dissenters.
Under the Duterte administration, the color red has become a symbol of death: the so-called “red-tagging” among activists, human rights defenders, union leaders, and peasant organizers have become synonymous with death. Indeed, red-tagging has become a prelude to death. At present, more than 150 activists and Lumad land and rights defenders were killed since Duterte assumed power in 2016.
The color red is also a color of hope and resistance. It is an reassurance that through collective effort, people have the power to change their condition, that people can bring healing into their troubled circumstances. Our gospel today invites us to profess our faith and live out courageously. Like Jairus, we Christians are summoned to express our faith vocally, i.e., announce the good news of justice and freedom and speak out against/denounce unjust socio-political and economic structures. Like the woman, we are likewise challenged to act courageously in the midst of tyranny.
Our country is stained with blood of innocent martyrs. Killings continue on a daily basis, with the perpetrators go unpunished. There is a time to mourn to honor the victims and there is a time to continue what the martyrs have started. And, as Jesus said to the little girl: “Talitha Koum!” (“Little girl, I say to you, GET UP!”), it is also time for us Christians and disciples of Christ to get up. Our ministry is firmly built upon the defense of hope which cannot be carried off unless it includes unconditional solidarity with and action on behalf of those who suffer, those whose hope is most endangered; a hope that must be accompanied by unwavering faith and radical action.
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).