On the mission of the Church

Leaders of the Catholic Church here should really stop themselves from participating in secular politics. In this, they have no less than Christ for role model. In His time, human rights situation was far worse. Dissenters of Ceasar, innocent and not, were pierced and displayed upside down on the highway, to dissuade anyone from following in their footsteps. That was just one means of putting dissenters to death. Christ, in fact, was a victim to this. In his conversations with people, His gospel alluded to Himself as the King (whom John before Him had announced was coming) which prompted those loyal and in service to Ceasar to catch and tried to get Him to say directly that He is, because to them there was no other King but Ceasar. For spreading news of a new King and kingdom which in effect challenged Ceasar’s authority, He was hanged. No thanks to the final betrayal of somebody from His inner circle as well as a people’s indecision (who to be loyal to?).

Within this political and social environment, did Christ call Ceasar names? rally people to His side? storm the palace in order to show who and what is right? change history with just one word?

no

He let human history run it’s course. Render unto Ceasar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s, He said. And they marveled at Him. They expected this “usurper” to call up a grand following and then march against Caesar. They were astounded when He shunned even the suggestion and instead told them to give Caesar as their ruler due recognition and respect.

What is the message there? Christ is telling us that there’s the practical world of humans which Caesar at the time in that place ruled, and there’s also His Father’s kingdom which will come in due time. And in order to set the latter in motion (to also run it’s course, so to speak), He had to come- Do not think that I have come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them. Meaning, while we are called to participate in human history we are also called to prepare (our souls) for that other kingdom.

Christ, by His life and death, opened to us the way toward this kingdom. The Church takes on from what He started. In doing so, the Church like Christ before it has to transcend “the world of Caesar”; to lead, like a good shepherd, the fulfillment of God’s words (the Gospel). And what are some of these words?

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

These are actually profound words. For instance, make every effort to live in peace with everyone. How does one do that in the secular world? To be holy. What does this mean for a secular person? Is it even possible in these times? But take heart! I have overcome the world. But, we say, He had not experienced globalization, terrorism, extremism, how could He have had overcome the world? How could we take heart? What relevance does Catholicism have in these times? Today, many words in the Scriptures seemed to have lost their meaning, and there’s so much work to do preparing for God’s kingdom.

To be light, to show the way, to unravel the mystery that is Love, to be Christ again and again. Church leaders therefore must be contemplatives at the same time activitists in God’s court in order that they be given wisdom and knowledge from the Spirit.

History shows us there had been miserable consequences for the human community when the Church dabbles in secular life. Recently, I was struck reading Robert Tiglao’s Manila Times’ opinion piece Ninoy Aquino: Hero or miscalculating ‘throne’ gamer?in which he feautred the transcript of (Ninoy) Aquino’s telephone conversation with Psinakis August 13, 1983.

Ninoy Aquino: Hi Steve, I’m at the airport and I cannot leave America without saying goodbye to you and expressing to you my deepest gratitude.
Steve Psinakis: Our prayers are always with you and all I can [say]is, remember that a word from you and anything you want is in your fingertips from me, okay? There’s no limit to what I will do for you if you need some help. We are praying for you, for your safety and success and freedom of people, okay?
Aquino: Now this is the latest, Steve, that I can give you. My source is Cardinal Sin. Number one: Marcos checked in at the Kidney Center. The experts went, saw him, they did a test. He flunked all tests and the conclusion was if they operate on him, it would be fatal.
So he went back to the Palace. He is no longer responding to medication and he will have to be hooked up to the dialysis machine now more often. How he will last with that machine on, I don’t know. Apparently they are now moving to put Imelda in effective control. And they are going to revamp the Cabinet, with (Roberto) Ongpin most probably emerging as prime minister and finance minister. Danding Cojuangco or [General Fabian] Ver, defense minister. O. D. Corpus possibly foreign minister, and maybe Ayala, I mean Enrique, maybe agriculture minister, I don’t know.
But there’s a major shake-up. Marcos met with his generals and apparently said goodbye to them last Friday. He was on television in Manila 24 hours ago, commenting on the boxing fight of Navarette and Talbot to show the people he is okay. But it’s a matter of time, so he wanted three weeks to collect this thoughts, write his memoirs, complete his book and most probably craft the final stages of his administration.
He’s a man now: Terminal. He knows he’s going and that’s the background I’m coming in.
Psinakis: I [also]heard some of this yesterday. I got some reports, not of course as authoritative as yours, but pretty much the same that something was wrong and they couldn’t operate and so forth. At any rate, the thought that comes to mind is that is good and bad. Good in that he’s going and he knows it. He might show some compassion for the country and treat your return with more pragmatic thinking. The bad part may be that hardliners like Ver who are bulldogs without any political savvy, who may think that they’re next in line [of succession]. Obviously, such people would look at your return with uh… That’s what I’m worried about.
Aquino: Well, there are two reports I received along that line. Well, if they pinpoint the plane I’m coming in. The rumor in Manila is that I’m taking the private jet of Enrique (Zobel) from Hong Kong. But all planes are being guarded and they may close the airport on Sunday or turn back the plane if they would be able to pinpoint which one I’m coming in.
The third, and this is the real iffy. They have two guys stationed to know me out at the airport. And they will try them for murder, they’ll convict them, but they have assurances.
Psinakis: Ah…let’s not think about that.
Aquino: Yeah, that’s the… Those are the things that I’ve been alerted. So, I don’t know what options they will do now. But I am meeting with ASEAN leaders beginning Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Indonesia—Suharto might receive me. Malaysia is already firm and Thailand is just about firm. Now Japan has sent word that if Imelda is in place [Prime Minister] Nakasone is willing to use his economic clout.
Psinakis: Ah really, huh?
Aquino: Yes…to tell Imelda that if you treat Aquino nicely, we can dialogue.
Psinakis: Oh, that’s good news all right. That’s damn good news.
Aquino: Nakasone is willing to send a private envoy, a secret private envoy with a personal letter making a plea for me. If am still alive and in prison, that if they will treat me gently, and come up with some kind of an understanding, Japanese economic assistance will continue. Because they are very uptight that if the woman [Imelda] takes over and there will be chaos, you know, it would be bad. Now the ASEAN leaders, on the other hand, feel this way: ASEAN today is already one region. And any instability in one part of ASEAN will scare investors in the entire region.
That’s why they are very, very uptight about the possibility of chaos and instability in the Philippines with Imelda. And that is the background of my conversation with them: That I am not going to upset the apple cart but that we can harmonize our movement.
To what extent they will be able to mitigate the hardliners, I don’t know. That’s the chance we’ll have to take. If I survive Sunday, and I get to prison, I’m there in a week’s time, I can get the works going.
I’m picking up a letter from [MNLF chairman] Nur Misuari, telling them that if the government will trust me as a negotiator, then they can start talks again. But they will not talk to anybody else.
Psinakis: It sounds to me like you have an awful lot of pluses on your side.
Aquino: Those are the trump cards I’m bringing home, which of course can be negated if one character gets to throw me out.
If I get into prison, there is no doubt, like 100 percent, I will be brought directly to prison. I may not even get a chance to talk to anybody there on the ground. But it’s okay. A long as I’m alive and in prison, I can start using my trump cards.
I will try to hold out for a meeting with Marcos. Now that’s he’s about to meet his Maker, I am almost confident that I can talk to him and sell him something. Although the Cardinal told me that “if you think you can sell Marcos a bill of goods like return to democracy and electoral processes, forget it. You’re dreaming.”
“He’s no longer in that state.” This is the Cardinal’s idea. I don’t buy it. Because I don’t think that a man who is about to die will be, you know, too hard-headed.
SP: I hope you are right, but I think the Cardinal is right. I think Marcos…not only because he doesn’t want to, that’s academic at this point in time. But I think he has just…he’s so deep and he has no choice but to stay where he is and leave things as they are. And I certainly hope that that’s wrong because we don’t want that.
Aquino: Okay. So, goodbye Steve.
Psinakis: One last question…
Aquino: Yes?
Psinakis: Any whatsoever…any indication from the US side that there might be some help on the cooperative or absolutely nothing?
Aquino: No. No indication. Except that they are watching me. They are following all my steps. But I am still hopeful that sanity will prevail and they will know that eventually, they’ll have to come to talk. Because I don’t think they’re very happy with the woman [Imelda] running the show.

I’d like to highlight the role of the late Cardinal Sin in that momentous episode of our national history ie. the turning point in Ninoy’s decision to return. Ninoy had placed his faith in the Cardinal’s words that Marcos was “soon going to meet his Maker” (as if anybody can confidently predict that!). But what if the Cardinal spoke the truth to Ninoy? What if he didn’t take advantage of an agitated man? What if he had kept his hands off the grab for power? What if he allowed history to run it’s course? Would the Filipinos have no cause to blame Marcos for Ninoy’s death? Would Ninoy still be alive today? If he were, what is the country like, now? Unified? But we couldn’t know exactly could we? That crossroad is forever lost to us. The Cardinal had directed the country toward another path. We have seen though that dissatisfaction and rebellion have not ebbed on this path. The Communists, MILF, MNLF, the people’s criticisms, protests etc. did not go away even with Cory and later her son at the helm. This tells us that lack of cohesion among Filipinos is not because of Marcos but rather it’s much more than that. The Church thought it was simply a change in President, or policies.

What if, also, Christ allowed emotions to dissuade Him and eliminated with a flick of a finger all His “enemies” ie. Caesar and his government? Burn you bastards! Where will the world be now? One thing I’m sure of- there’d be no Catholic Church, or Christian Churches for that matter. For there’d be no compelling model of love nor mission to love from which to draw upon. Humans would’ve been deprived of their power to chart their own history and learn it’s lessons. Men and women would’ve been deprived of living life. Also, Christ would’ve been stuck on earth, constantly changing less than ideal governments. That’s not a life.

I watched the turn over ceremonies in the AFP, and I was touched by the AFP minister’s prayer. He prayed for the country’s leaders including the President, that they be guided and given the strength to lead wisely. Uttered in community, the prayer showed itself as the middle ground on which Church and State could come together in mutual support and understanding. The Church has dedicated a year in support of it’s priests. I believe one for leaders will be good.

The Church has to look at this country’s leaders as it does all it’s priests- with fraternal love and respect. Would the Church criticize it’s priests in front of churchgoers? It has not and it will not. It recognizes that priests are of the line of Melchizedek. Same with leaders elected by the people. Christ recognized human authority and while here subjected Himself to that regardless of what He knows of them. For He and the Church afterward had a greater purpose, one that’s apart of human history and all it’s troubles yet at the same time intricately linked to it. How this greater purpose can come to be is the realm of the Church. In the end, we’re all in this together, individually trying to make sense out of life and looking for solutions. But together.

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