We look at our our national situation through the lens of shalom-based transformation — that is, harmony with the Creator (spiritual-ethical transformation), harmony with our being (psycho-social transformation), harmony with others (socio-political transformation), and harmony with the creation (economic-ecological transformation). This season, when we commemorate the suffering and death of the Prince of Shalom, we reflect on the condition of our people and our land. This season, when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, we also want to celebrate the glimpses of renewed life in our society.

Our national situation

My heart and mind resonate with the joint statement of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and the Catholic Bishops Council of the Philippines (CBCP) for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022. Their words have been an encouragement to me as we continue to pursue peace and reconciliation based on our theological framework.

Spiritual-Ethical Transformation. Our national church leaders described the crises we’re facing. “In these trying times, we must guard against the powers of darkness that will seek to defraud, deceive, and destroy God’s intended goodness for the Filipino people,” they warned. They also reminded us to “be like a ‘city on hill’ that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14)”. Our spiritual elders also encouraged us that, as “a community that evangelizes through active participation in the democratic process, we can lead by example, reflecting Christ’s love and joining in a journey toward our desired future, where justice, righteousness, and peace will take root and God’s Shalom will flourish among us.”

Psycho-Social Transformation. “These are days of struggle, hardship, and despair,” our church leaders said. “The very dignity of life has been violated as many have been extra-judicially killed,” they lamented. “Falsehoods and evil peddled through strong-arm governance have not only limited democratic space, but they have led to corruption, scandals and serious shortcomings in social, health, and other government services.”

Socio-Political Transformation. We are then exhorted to “respond to the challenges of our time” and to “offer ourselves in service to the poor, the marginalized, and to the toiling majority who are striving for more prosperous and peaceful futures.” The key leaders of some Christian denominations chose to serve as resource speakers for voters’ education in preparation for the coming election on 09 May 2022.

We, as a people, have been awakened. The People Power is alive, well, deeper, wider, and more sustainable. The path to radical transformation that has been ignited will spread like a forest fire.

Ecological-Economic Transformation. “We commit to nurturing ecological integrity, both because this is a right thing to do and because such action can lessen the probability of extreme climate events and dangerous pandemics,” our spiritual elders tell us. “Together, we celebrate our Christian unity and affirm our deepest desire to participate in a common journey that will bring us to a place where all creation will sing of God’s goodness and will live in harmony and peace.”

Ecological-economic transformation is a high priority concern for our Christian community: “With elections only months away, we must dare to work together, honoring life and God’s creation. This is a Kairos moment where we can encourage active citizenship among our people and insist upon servant leadership from those who desire our votes in the May 2022 national polls. In Christian unity, our prophetic voice and firm stand for Christ-like conduct and life-affirming principles will enable us to join with other Filipinos in discerning who should lead the country.”

The triumphal entry into Jerusalem

O Creator, thank you for the life of Jesus of Nazareth who lived as a common carpenter, debunking the myths that perpetuate the oppressive system of the Roman Empire. This Man from a marginalized province called Galilee entered the capital of a colonized and harassed nation and started subverting the unjust religious, political, military, economic, and cultural violence of a fake peace called “Pax Romana.” His life-journey inspires me a lot. Jesus’ Radical Love have been transforming societies for more than two thousand years — like a mustard seed creating a forest; like yeast enriching the flour; like salt prolonging nourishment; like the light vanquishing the darkness.

May the rule of the Creator — that of Truth&Love, that of Justice&Mercy — be experienced by all of us, within us and around us. May the justice and righteousness of the Rule of God, proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth, be realized and be triumphant in our Philippine society and in all the nations in this beautiful planet.

Remembering our mandate

O Creator, I am grateful for the message and the reminder of Maundy Thursday. Through the life and teachings of Jesus, we were taught to love serve one another within his community. And as a community, we are to love and serve those outside the community with the same love and service given to those inside our community. By your Spirit, empower each of us to wash each other’s feet; and by your Spirit, empower our community to wash the feet of the members of other communities so that they will know we are followers of Jesus by our love and service.

Ultimate expression of love

O Creator, thank you for teaching us how to love others. The crucifixion of Jesus the Nazarene by the Roman Empire, and with complicity of the Jewish religious authorities, reminds us of the ultimate expression of love of an ordinary carpenter — that is, giving one’s life to challenge every human society to debunk myths that justify systems of oppression, to resist unjust structures, and to imagine a new world characterized by truth, justice, love, and mercy. Today is a reminder, especially for us claiming to be Christians, to follow the life and teachings of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life: spiritual-ethical, psycho-social, socio-political, and economic-ecological.

Bless us, O Creator, this Good Friday.

The Reality of Darkness and Death

O Creator, you taught us that death is real, but not final. Thank you for allowing us to see that the ‘Circle of Life’ necessarily includes the cessation of a life to be a nourishing factor and a transition towards a new life. I’m grateful because, in the Christian faith and spirituality, this cycle of life is commemorated in the death and burial of Jesus Christ, climaxing on the celebration of the Resurrection.

Today, O Creator, we focus on the reality of death. The life of any living organism necessarily ends as a transition towards a new form of life. We go through darkness. We experience complete silence. Like seeds, we are buried to the ground, waiting to become new Sprouts of Life. During this time, O Great Creator, we embrace rest. In music, ‘rest’ is part of the whole expression of beauty. We rest in peace. In that time of darkness, you, our Creator, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, is there with us. I remember an ancient Hebrew sacred poetry that affirms this reality: “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence?… If I make my bed in the depths, You are there… even the darkness will not be dark to You… for darkness is as light to You.” (Psalm 139:7, 11, 12).

I realize, O Creator, that life is both terminal and eternal. We die. Meanwhile, we rest in peace, while we hope for the resurrection.

O Creator, bless us all during this Holy Saturday.

Life is the Final Reality

Hallelujah! I praise you, O Great Creator! Life transcends death. The Circle of Life is infinite. Life is the Final Reality.

In the Christian faith and spirituality, you taught us, O Creator, that the Resurrection is the core truth. Without the resurrection, the whole truth-claim of Christianity collapses.

Thank you that this reality was exhibited in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. He was a Jewish carpenter who articulated, through his prayer, a new understanding of the Will of God — that this earth would experience the values of heaven. He taught us a new way of imagining the world and human societies characterized by truth and love, by justice and mercy. This view of reality challenged the myth of Pax Romana or the Peace of Rome — an oppressive imperial system founded on fake peace, violence, injustice, militarization, colonization, and slavery.

Because of Jesus’ unique Way to radically transform humanity and the world wherein we live, the religious and imperial structures were offended. They sentenced him to death. He was crucified — the most horrible punishment and death sentence under the Roman Empire.

Thank you, O Creator, that the story did not end in Jesus’ death. The Christian story climaxed in the Resurrection. Jesus rose from the dead!

The death sentence of the world’s oppressive empires against humanity and the planet is being vanquished by the Resurrection Power. The Resurrected Humanity will surely overcome historical lies, violence, wars, exploitation, and earth destruction.

I remember St. Paul, in the 15th chapter of his first letter to the Christians in the Roman city of Corinth, when he encouraged the believers there who were suffering under Roman oppression. He reminded them of the Resurrection Reality as they struggled through organizing and developing communities of the Way of Jesus. Near the end of the chapter, St. Paul exclaimed: “‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’… But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” I resonate with St. Paul.

By your Spirit, empower us, O Creator, as we all participate in building communities — of truth and love, of justice and mercy — that will serve as pilot societies of Radical Transformation.

Art Credits:
“Jesus with Street Children” by Joey Velasco, Philippines
“Biblical Story Series” by He Qi, China

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