By JENNIFER FERARIZA-MENESES
Board of Women’s Work of The United Methodist Church
Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
The Faith of the Poor
During Jesus’ time, the beggars on the street were considered to have the lowest economic status. They would sit on the side of the street and situate themselves in a place where they knew that a huge crowd was passing by. The beggars most likely were Jews and were heavily taxed by the Romans. The poor are the oppressed, the exploited, the despised and the marginalized and not just entirely those who suffer from economic poverty. To be poor was more a question of honor, social status and lack of power that led to oppression and marginalization.
Bartimaeus’ situation almost makes no difference in the present life of our poor Filipino people. We can find and see Bartimaeus of today in the faces and struggles of the urban poor, indigenous peoples, victims/survivors of sexual violence, migrant workers, peasants, teachers, health workers, human rights defenders, among others.
We have been witnessing how the poor live out their strong faith to be healed from many social illnesses even before pandemic time. Their sustained determination to survive each pandemic day is an expression of a genuine love for life. Like Bartimaeus, our suffering Filipino people have been begging and shouting for mercy, justice and healing through their unified voices and collective actions for a dignified life for all. Like Bartimaeus who never gave up to seek Jesus’ healing for his physical impediment, the faith of our poor Filipinos has never been wearied, all the more it perseveres amidst the climate of violence, injustice and inequality. It is the faith of the poor like Bartimaeus’ that can bring power of healing, justice and liberation.
The Rejection of the Poor
Bartimaeus, a poor, blind man, was rejected by the disciples and the Jewish people by rebuking him to keep silent when he was calling the attention of Jesus. They believed that the likes of Bartimaeus must not be treated justly because of his illness, disability and committed sins. They believed that low people like him do not deserve the attention, mercy and healing of Jesus.
In the Philippines, the gap between the rich and the poor further widens, more so during this pandemic. This gap does not only mean about the income inequality between the lower and higher income classes in the country but also the poor’s difficult access and limited opportunities to basic social services. Around 22 millions of poor Filipinos have been suffering from poverty, hunger, joblessness and poor housing, education and healthcare services. Deaths caused by the virus, human rights and drug-related killings have become a usual news of the day.
Sad truth is, the Philippine government has embodied a prevailing culture of tyranny, impunity and corruption at the expense of the welfare and development of the Filipino people. This sad truth means deprivation of people’s potentials to participate meaningfully in all life aspects of our nation. This sad truth means rejection to productivity and creativity of Filipinos in contributing to the nation’s progress and development. This sad truth means negligence to fully exercise the rights of the Filipinos as active citizens of a democratic country.
Jesus’ Healing and Salvation for the Poor
In Bible time, the healing ministry of Jesus does not only address the person’s physical health needs. Jesus restores and redeems the person, holistically. More importantly, the healing of Jesus sends a message of faith, hope, love and wholeness to the people in the community where social prejudice, exclusion and abuse of power are of high prevalence. The healing ministry of Jesus is a powerful manifestation of the restorative and redeeming grace of Christ.
Through the healing of Jesus, Bartimaeus received not only his sight, but also his salvation. He was saved from his sickness and from the people’s unjust treatment towards him. Jesus sees to it that salvation must be given right when we ask for it, when we need it the most.
With the danger and crisis around us nowadays, we never lose hope that Jesus’ promise of salvation would be within our reach and can be experienced each day. For our struggling people, salvation is food on the table, decent jobs and wages, better healthcare service, no more killings and death. We long for the day where all of us will be healed and saved from “sins and sickness” of violence, injustices, abuses and exploitation happening in our land. We long for the day where salvation of Jesus that brings love, justice and peace would be an everyday experience of all.
To the modern day disciples and followers of Jesus, how do we see our Bartimaeus of today? Do we see them powerless, voiceless? Do we keep them silent or listen to their cry? Do we ignore or accompany them to receive healing and salvation?
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).