March 8, 2008

Crying Heroes

5th Sunday of Lent

John 11:3-45: Jesus said to them “untie him and let him go.

One day, God asked all his angels to gather people’s tears on earth. After a week, the angels returned bringing tears in containers. But the angels were all surprised when the tears they have collected became gold and charcoals. Then Archangel Gabriel asked, “Lord, how come the tears became gold and charcoals?” God smiled and said, “The tears that turned into charcoals are the tears of people who saw other people suffering, they shed tears, but they did nothing.” Then God lovingly looked at the golden tears and said, “These tears are tears of people who saw other people suffering, they shed tears and did something.”

Our gospel for today is about crying people. We find Martha and the Jews crying over the death of Lazarus whom they loved (John 11:32). When Jesus saw them crying, He was disturbed and deeply troubled and “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

The word “compassion” came from the prefix “com” and the Latin root word “passio” which means “with suffering.” Therefore to be compassionate means “to feel the pain of other people” or “the pain of others becomes one’s pain too.”

But Compassion is often characterized through actions, wherein a person acting with compassion will seek to aid those they feel compassionate for.
Full of compassion to Martha, Mary and friends, Jesus was deeply disturbed, troubled and cried for the death of Lazarus. To be emotionally involved was not enough; he wanted to ease the pain of his friends by doing something. And so he went to the tomb, prayed, and commanded Lazarus to rise and come out. A golden tears!

Many of us are losing hope or have lost hope. Losing hope is dying. We are surrounded by different realities and levels of hopelessness or dying. We have many “Lazaruses” in our midst. Many Filipinos want to go abroad; they think that our country is a hopeless case - a slowly dying Lazarus.

On last Thursday’s newspapers, the National Statistical Coordination Board reported that in 2006, more than 27 million Filipinos were living on just a dollar a day. A family needed P 6,274.00 a month to stay out of poverty.
Hopelessness dawns on us when we read newspaper, surf the Philippine news website or watch TV Patrol. We are continuously bombarded by the ZTE-NBN scandal, decreasing size of pandesal, flood in Bicol region, importing rice in Vietnam, crimes, and other faces of evil. Reality bites! Our hearts bleed. We are affected and blame the government and politicians. But after blaming others, we simply set aside the newspaper, switch off the TV and the internet and return to our daily routine, without asking, “What can I do?”

We are pretty sure that during the time of Jesus, Lazarus was not the only person who died in Israel. But on that day, on that specific time and place, he personally came to the grave of Lazarus and resurrected him.

Almost a quarter of our population is hungry. Do I share my food to ease the hunger of at least one single soul? Many intelligent and deserving youth are out of school. Can I ask some of my friends to chip-in some of their hard-earned peso to sponsor a scholar? Our youth keep on blaming their parents for their broken family. Did they do something to fix it? We blame the MMDA and Bayani Fernando for their inefficient garbage collection and traffic management, but we indiscriminately throw cigarette butts and candy wrappers on the streets, disobey traffic rules, jaywalk and park our car anywhere. Our government should do more for our country, but we should do something for our country also.

The clamor for a different brand of People Power is timely. We need people power of “empowered people” who are not only “deeply disturbed and troubled,” but warm bodies that are committed to do something for our country in their own small, doable, and attainable way. Filipinos are good in “micros.” Why not excel in this area? We Filipinos love “patak-patak” or giving small contributions for something worthwhile. Why not do it also for our country? Let’s give our contribution. Set an example. Contribute something even if you’re the only one contributing. To relieve the hunger of one soul is better than cursing the whole system.

When Lazarus came out of the tomb, his hands and feet were tied with burial bands and his face was wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said, “untie him and let him go” (John 11:45). Jesus did his part. The disciples’ job was to untie Lazarus!

Resurrecting our “Lazaruses” is not enough. To give hope is not the end. Feeding the poor is not enough. Regular dole-outs are not liberating. We need to untie them from their own spiritual, emotional, and intellectual un-freedom. Untie their hands so that they will be able to help others. Untie their feet so that they can be free and move forward. Remove the cloth in their faces to see the light and find their way. Educate and not replicate! This is empowering people by empowered people – a new kind of people power!

In a Gawad Kalinga Village in Bamban, Tarlac, neatly dressed Aeta children gather inside a pre-school classroom, listening attentively as their teacher reads books. Meanwhile, their parents are out in the field and harvesting vegetables. A few years back, they were beggars in Manila streets. Thanks to Gawad Kalinga. Golden tears!

The School of Medicine of Ateneo de Zamboanga was established in 1994 in response to the call to produce doctors attuned to the health needs of Region 9. By 1998, the first batch of graduates was assigned in various remote communities in Western Mindanao. Since then, more than 100 Christian and Muslim students have graduated from this innovative school and have significantly contributed in improving health care, with more than 90% of the graduates decided to stay in Western Mindanao’s remote areas. Another tears-turned gold!

Empowered people are compassionate and loving people – ever sensitive to the needs of others and passionate to respond to the signs of times.

The story of People Power 1 and 2 are already in the annals of Philippine History. But the story of People Power by Empowered People will go to annals of God’s History of Salvation. They are the crying heroes of God.

- Fr. Willy M. Samson,SJ
Ateneo de Zamboanga

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