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An invitation to ‘respond’, not ‘react’

By Bishop Pablo Virgilio David

CBCP President

No doubt, the strong reactions of indignation in the social media are enough to indicate that countless people, especially devout Catholics and devotees of the Nazarene Lord have felt deeply offended by the infamous drag act that has recently drawn a lot of attention in the social media. But this much I can say: yes, we are hurt, and we may have every reason to be offended. But remember that we take offense only for love of God and of our faith. Let that love teach us, not to react, but to respond in a spiritually intelligent way. St Paul says in Eph 4:26-27, “If you are angry, do not let it lead you to sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not give the devil a chance to work on you.”

Perhaps we can look at things this way: even as he does all the things that we might consider hateful, insulting, and offensive to our religious sensibilities, we continue to hold on to our faith in a God who is consistently merciful. No amount of hateful things that we can do can make God hate us. Remember it was for love of us that he sent us his Only Son (Jn 3:16-17), Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the lover of sinners, the one in whom the wounded and the sick found, not just their healer, but their “Lord and Savior”.

It is good to remind ourselves that the natural tendency for people who are hurt is to assume a defensive mode and quietly transition into an offensive mode, often without their realizing it. They can turn into a lynch mob no different from that which wanted to stone a sinful woman to death (See John 8:1-11). Only Jesus can point us to the ground and bring us back to our senses, by reminding us gently that he who points an accusing finger at somebody has three others pointing at himself.

Of course, we have every right to react vehemently when we feel that our dignity is being violated by those who seem to disrespect what we regard as holy—our icons, our prayers, our devotions. But isn’t our Christian discipleship about learning to take the blows the way the Nazarene himself did, hating the sin but loving the sinner, never giving up on anyone of us, suffering and dying for our redemption?

How hard it is to hold on to the basic Christian principle na “walang likas na masamang tao sa mundo kahit ano pang masama ang pwede nilang magawa.” How hard it is to follow the exhortation of our Nazarene Lord to love our enemies, do good to those who hurt us, and pray for those who persecute us. Isn’t that asking a bit too much, you might ask? He’ll probably say in reply, “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.”

Christ may indeed be blasphemed by people who mock his icons and his teachings. But I am sure he is blasphemed even more by people who come to Church regularly but cannot recognize his face in women and children who are abused, in victims of human trafficking, in the thousands of alleged “drug suspects” who have been abducted, tortured and summarily executed in the last several years, in the homeless poor who live like rats in dwellings unfit for humans, in the undocumented Filipinos who literally do not count and are treated like unwanted aliens in their own country.

There are many ways of committing blasphemy; and while we notice the more obvious forms of it, we may be completely oblivious of its many other forms in our daily lives.

I think it was Mother Teresa who once said, “People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you’ve got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God; It was never between you and them anyway.”


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