A recent political hullabaloo stemmed from a survey report that a significant minority of Filipinos considers the national situation so hopeless that they wish to
transfer abroad. As usual, a political game began – finger-pointing as to the cause of this situation. Never mind logic. Never mind objective dispassionate analysis. The GMA administration is to blame.
Hello! No pundit seems to point out that this hopeless situation predates GMA. It was there before EDSA I. It was there before EDSA II. These momentous events simply gave promise of redemption. The promise
was dashed to pieces by traditional politics. The pastures were greener outside the Philippines even then.
One could arguably and realistically trace the root of the present situation back
to the brief ERAP years. So short a time in office and yet so far reaching its disaster. The present silly power gridlock in the Senate is a legacy of the impeachment case, with a couple of weird transfers
Hopelessness about the economic and political situation is a state of mind that did not come about overnight. It is about the inability of successive administrations and
political parties to get us out of this morass. It is also about promises confidently offered and promises conveniently sacrificed for the sake of money and power. It is about continuing political inanities,
such as are presently being demonstrated in the Senate and in the alleged GMA versus VP conflict. Another inanity – those who shamelessly supported, defended, and propped up an inept and corrupt former
administration now have the nerve to accuse the present of ineptness and corruption.
In all these the paramount concern of politicians from left to right seems to be about political chances
at the 2004 elections. Damn the common good. What matters is self-serving interest, even if it causes division, drives away investors, and inhibits progress. What counts is a good leverage for 2004. No
wonder there is hopelessness, frustration, and anger among the people.
But this morning, July 2, at the Betania Retreat House, Tagaytay, the Bishops were reminded of a Gospel paradigm of
hope. The Bishops' spiritual retreat is three and a half days of prayer and reflection, a "rest in the Lord." This morning, our Retreat facilitator, a Jesuit priest from Georgetown University and former
theology teacher of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, set the tone with a stirring homily on hopelessness and Christian hope. His homily is so relevant and contextual.
Our imagination leads to us to see Jesus and the disciples on a boat (Mt. 8:23-27; Mk. 4: 35-40; Lk. 8:22-25). While they are crossing the lake, a violent storm suddenly comes up.
Waves begin to swamp the boat. The disciples are in great terror. They panic. But Jesus is sound asleep. The disciples make their way to him, wake him up and cry out: "Lord, save us! We are lost!" Jesus says
to them: "Where is your courage? How little faith you have!" Then he stands up and rebukes the wind and the sea. Complete calm results. The disciples are dumbfounded and they marvel what sort of man Jesus is
that even the winds and the sea obey him.
The boat and the disciples represent the Church, sometimes known as the "bark of Peter." The storm represents the many crises facing the Church
today. The modern questioning of and even dissent from the teaching authority of the Church, schismatic movements, ideological and sectarian attacks on the Church, the proliferation of cults, the lure of
religious fundamentalism, a post-modern anti-Gospel culture of materialism, rationalism, and lack of religious sense (secularism), a new type of morality that caters to current liberalist ideas on love,
marriage, family, and even death, the terrible sexual scandal buffeting the Church, poverty, injustice, lack of integrity, etc. – these are violent waves creating fear, panic, a sense of hopelessness.
Crises within the Church, crises in the economic, political, and social order swamp the bark of Peter, its lay people, clergy, and religious. And Jesus is seemingly asleep. Fearful of being
drowned and realizing our deep need for God, we together must:
(1) make our way to Jesus;
(2) confess our helplessness, our lack of hope, our lack of real faith and authentic Christian love;
(3) and cry out to him for his grace of purification and redemption.
Christ, indeed, is the answer to all our crises. The key is the Good News and all the difficult demands it has to renew / transform our mentalities, our values and behavior in the Church and
in society. Renewal for priests and bishops to be true shepherds in word, thought and deed in the manner of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. For religious to be true prophets of the holiness demanded by the
Beatitudes and the evangelical counsels. For lay people to be genuine Gospel leaven of society, transforming the social structure from within in accordance with the message and values of the Gospel. For the
whole Church to be a Church of holiness, integrity, transparency, accountability, a Church of the Poor.
Change, conversion, Church renewal, social transformation – these are the call
of the times.A daunting and formidable task, considering the scandals that buffet the Church, the shortsighted, self-serving and divisive behavior of our political leaders, the cynicism and skepticism and
even the despair of many of our people.
Hopelessness? No, absolutely not. Hope? Yes, the Lord can hear our cry. "Lord, save us! We are lost!" He can still the winds and the waves. But only if
we are open to His grace, receptive to his Gospel, apply it to our lives, and change the way we are in the religious, economic, political, and cultural spheres. And change must begin — with our leaders: the
shepherds of the Church and the leaders in the political order. The direction is integrity and the good of all. The goal is nothing short of day to day holiness.