MANILA, Philippines–On the first day of the House of Representatives’ investigation of the Mamasapano massacre, PNP officer in charge Leonardo Espina broke down as he asked why his men were brutally finished off.
He became more definite about his role as the father of the PNP; with greater conviction he demanded justice for the slain Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.
This brief episode of truth, authenticity and humble courage was a moment of healing.
As emotions reached a crescendo in the hall, the committee chair called for a recess. Interestingly enough, somebody, presumably a congressman, was heard saying, “Medyo emotional si General.”
I think this was very telling not only of a national dysfunction, but also of a rupture in our situation. To a great degree, we have compartmentalized, and thus, disintegrated our sense of humanity.
Think of all the divides that exist: East and West; North and South; First and Third Worlds; colored and white; Christians and non-Christians; rich and poor; mind and heart; body and soul—we can go on and on in almost any aspect of human life, and it will not be hard to find what divides us. But the challenge is to seek common ground and that which unites us, heals and makes us whole.
This Sunday’s Gospel has a dramatic yet subtle narrative to show us a possible common ground and the grace that heals and makes whole.
The leper is probably one of the most destitute among society’s outcasts in the time of Christ. Not only is the leper not allowed to mingle, but he is also forced to humiliate himself by being required to announce, “unclean, unclean,” to warn people of his condition as he approaches.
The temerity of the leper to break this rule and walk up to Christ is remarkable. The leper has no other recourse but to “break the law.” He has no one to turn to but Christ.
Note the humility of his plea: “The leper came to Jesus and, kneeling down, begged him and said, ‘If you wish, you can make me clean.’”
The irony of the leper’s boldness and humility is perhaps what we need to heal and be made whole again.
In the rut we’re in, we need to think out of the box and be bold. It is not a call to break the law, but to be bold in seeking solutions to society’s ills.
There is so much noise from contending factions and you feel that most—not all—serve vested interests. None seems to be thinking out of the box—a boldness that comes only from a deep sense of humility and selflessness.
This humility and selflessness stem from an experience of coming face-to-face with the authentic truth, that we are radically dependent on Christ, that “in him alone is our hope” and true salvation.
It breaks us down and sets us free. It breaks down our pride. Yet it is in being humbled that we discover our true power and strength.
It was Paul’s experience that made him say, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 10)
It was Peter’s experience of his poverty that made him proclaim, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, rise and walk.” (Acts 3:6)
Perhaps this is what we need now, as a people, as a nation, to acknowledge our need for God and to remain faithful to him in this difficult moment in our national history.
The coming days and months will be crucial leading to the elections. Last week, someone told me that what’s scary about the situation is that there seems to be a vacuum in the country’s leadership, and “nature abhors a vacuum.”
But maybe this is also the time that we can fill it with God’s grace. Like the leper, we can be bold and think out of the box; to be humble and selfless and to go to the Lord, kneel before him, and beg, “Lord, if you wish, please heal our land and our people.”
Cry for justice
Let’s go back to Espina’s cry for justice and recall Pope Francis’ words during his visit at the University of Santo Tomas:
“There is a worldly compassion which is useless. You expressed something like this. It’s a compassion that makes us put our hands in our pockets and give something to the poor. But if Christ had had that kind of compassion he would have greeted a couple of people, given them something, and walked on.
“But it was only when he was able to cry that he understood something of our lives. Dear young boys and girls, today’s world doesn’t know how to cry. The emarginated people, those left to one side, are crying. Those who are discarded are crying. But we don’t understand much about these people in need.
“Certain realities of life we only see through eyes cleansed by our tears. I invite each one here to ask yourself: Have I learned how to weep? Have I learned how to weep for the emarginated or for a street child who has a drug problem or for an abused child? Unfortunately there are those who cry because they want something else.
“This is the first thing I want to say: Let us learn how to weep… and let us not forget this lesson…
“In the Gospel, Jesus cried for his dead friend, he cried in his heart for the family who lost its child, for the poor widow who had to bury her son. He was moved to tears and compassion when he saw the crowds without a pastor.
“If you don’t learn how to cry, you cannot be a good Christian. This is a challenge. When they posed this question to us, why children suffer, why this or that tragedy occurs in life—our response must be either silence or a word that is born of our tears. Be courageous, don’t be afraid to cry.”