Thursday, August 30, 2007

Of Oppression and Liberation

Few years ago, a sizable frame was mounted on one of the walls of our seminary in Canlubang. It's a portrait of Christ's, his sheepish face closed up, perhaps taken from one recent film about Him. His face wasn't much arresting, I reckon, His eyes seem to speak to anyone who looks into them, but that's about everything. What struck me most was the caption that goes with the portrait, it reads:

"God became Human, what an honor for us!"

Blimey! This string of simple words, hit me to the core.

Of course, I know what this line means: the Word has become Flesh, and He lived amongst us.

He had a pair of human parents; He ate and drank like an ordinary mortal does; He had friends; He had borne and manifested human emotions, in fact He got mad at times—and how fiery was he with his passion! One evangelist aptly recorded his words "I have come to bring fire upon the earth…and what anguish I feel until it is over!" (Luke 12:49)

But everything did not end there. His becoming human did not permit him to merely experience the superficialities of how a human lives. He did not come to see the human world, nor conceal His divinity just so he could spy on us, and provide a necessary evaluative report to the Father.

I was wondering, did Jesus ask the Father to permit him to tour the world and perhaps, to see for himself—using human eyes—the beauty of His creation?


But I am sure that His becoming a human didn't mean an on-the-job-training of how it is to become a loving God. It was the actual stuff, it was the real thing! The mystery of Incarnation accorded Him with both the dignity of a majestic and compassionate God!

Was it last month when we had a heated argument in one of our subjects about the relevance of the timeliness of Jesus' coming? If the Father would have wanted to save us, why did He wait for centuries to send Jesus? And in the fertility of my imagination, I would ask "would it make a difference if Christ himself appeared before Adam and Eve to refute the claim of the serpent? I bet, he wouldn't have to suffer, and die on a cross. And still, we would be saved."

Blimey, that's going to be an interesting plot for a film!

But then, we know that things did not happen that way. The Father and Jesus (and the Holy Spirit of course!) had to wait for the right time, in order to make proper intervention.

Jesus, the anointed one, has come into our lives, silently, like a thief in the night. No important guests were invited. The wise men came. And of course, the lowly and delighted shepherds who were busy patrolling over their flocks came to see Him also, perhaps, out of the intriguing message let out by some cosmic thingy.

Christ was sent as a liberator, in a time when the Jews were haunted by oppression, injustice, and other atrocities of human wretchedness. The people mistakenly clung on to him as somebody who would liberate them from their misfortune.

To put it in our present era, people saw in him the features of a politician whom they wanted to bring them a better quality of human life. The people were delighted to see Jesus as he performed miracles: when he multiplied the loaves of bread into infinity, when he healed them just by His touch, when He would deliver His usual formula of tirades against the hypocrites. This list is legion.

Some Sundays ago, these words of Christ echoed in all the Catholic churches the world over: "Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division" (Luke 12:50). And like any other clueless Catholics, I found myself nonplussed, deciphering what this line means.

I bet, the people of His time started to ask questions when they heard sermons falling under this ilk.

Maybe, they were not only confounded, but found themselves utterly disappointed. They felt shortchanged. And the person whom they expected to show them the way towards liberation stopped resembling the features of this ambulant guru. And the promise of a better quality of life turned into a whimper, and evolved into just that, an empty promise.

As He harvested the ire of the people, Jesus attempted to clear His name "My kingship does not come from this world" (John 18: 36), but the effort seemed too late, the people were not only disappointed. They felt betrayed.

I cannot blame them. If I were in that crowd, I would have done the same. And despite the fact that I have gained a leverage through the various inputs I would gain over the years about Christ, I would also feel utterly disappointed whenever I feel that I still am a prisoner of an oppressive system, injustice, and stuff that pain me.

In those moments of silence, in the great experience of prayer, I seek God's explanation, and perhaps, a humble pleading that I may understand His will in the midst of the suffering I encounter. With a hopeful heart, I am optimistic that, one day, He will set me free.

You came down to become like me.
To gratify yourself in loving me.
But you did more by saving me.
You freed me from my sins,
and from my evil self.

Your presence has become an invitation for me
not to satisfy myself in loving lowly things.
You have invited me to go up to a higher place;
and reminded me that Our kingdom does not end here.
The beauty of this world is merely a beginning.

Remain in my presence, Lord.
Continue to deliver me from myself.

Nov. Donnie Duchin E. Duya
Sacred Heart Novitiate
Jaime Cardinal Sin's 79th Birthday