Lent 01, Year B

Do I have the mind of Christ? (cf. 1 Cor. 2:16)

How would Jesus react were he told of the recent catastrophes in the Philippines? Of the landslide two weeks ago that wiped out an entire village of farmers [1], of the stampede last Feb. 4 which killed some 74 people [2], and of the flood last Jan. 27 that destroyed rice and onion crops in the Aurora, Nueva Ecija and other provinces [3]?

Would Jesus give the same kind of assurance we read about in Lk. 13:1-5, namely, that the victims of these disasters were neither greater sinners nor more guilty than the rest of the Filipinos?

More guilty surely would be those investors, I think, who make money on illegal logging and thereby contribute to indiscriminate deforestation and the destructive land erosions resulting from the lost of forest cover that plays a vital role in maintaining land stability.

No less guilty, I would think, are the partners of these investors, both those who smuggle illegal timber and those officials who look the other way upon receiving bribes.

As I see it, more blameworthy are the Philippine government authorities. Their ineffective programs to relieve poverty have left the poorest of the poor relying too much on game shows that promise big prizes, and on bets and lotteries.

More culpable, in my judgment, would be those in the engineering offices of the department of public works. Why weren’t the levees already weakened in 2004 not repaired?

I find it really hard to believe that the victims of these disasters could be greater sinners or more guilty than the rest. What readily comes to my mind rather is that to them could very well apply St. Vincent’s statement about the true religion, that is, that it is among them, among these poor people, is preserved the true religion, the living faith, as they believe with simplicity, without picking and choosing, submit to orders, are patient in the miseries that they have to endure as God wills, some because of war, others because they have to work all day under the heat of the sun.

These victims, it seems to me, belonged the crowds, at the sight of which the Lord is moved with pity, and whose cry he hears today (cf. the first paragraph of the Pope’s message for Lent 2006 [4]).

And wouldn’t the Lord warn us also perhaps that if we do not repent, we would perish as these victims did? And I do think it will be hard, if not impossible, to find someone without guilt and not in need of any repentance that he may cast the first stone.

In the first place, if it is true, as Martin Luther King, Jr., said that injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere, wouldn’t it be true as well that my disrespect for the immediate environment has put at risk the environment the world over? After all, I do think there is truth in John Muir’s saying, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."

Also, I am afraid that, as a consumer, I easily mistake wants for needs, and turning the former to the latter, I end up fostering consumerism, which is the reason, I think, that such a thing as illegal logging thrives.

And is there an excuse for someone appointed a watchman who keeps silence and does not warn the wicked?

But I am here dealing mostly with only opinions and guesses. When all is said, who knows with certainty, really, how Jesus would react?

But one who is a Christian tries to know as best as one could. Such one does not dispense with one’s obligation to discern how Jesus would react or what he would say or do, or otherwise one would not know how to imitate Christ--which is what to be a Christian means--or, in the words of St. Vincent’s oft-repeated advice, to live in Jesus Christ by the death of Jesus Christ, and to die in Jesus Christ by the death of Jesus Christ, and to lead a life hidden in Jesus Christ and full of Jesus Christ, and to live like Jesus Christ in order to die like Jesus Christ. The Christian should have his or her eyes fixed on Jesus, because the person with eyes on him who is our head and the principle of all things, St. Gregory of Nyssa assures us, "has them fixed on every virtue (for Christ is the perfection of virtue), truth, incorruptibility and good" (cf. Heb. 12:2 [5]).

With eyes fixed on Jesus and led by the power of the Spirit, the follower of Christ learns from God, who teaches the humble his way, how to cross the torrential current of the baptismal waters in a saving and not drowning manner. The follower of Christ learns as well, how to overcome the obstacles and tests that will never be lacking to anyone deciding to repent, believe in the Evangelizer of the Poor, and try to make sure that his or her our own "gaze" on human beings measures up to Christ’s "gaze," to borrow from Benedict XVI Lenten message.

And they better be ready, those who were baptized into Christ Jesus, and renew their baptismal vows, to see him react in a manner not usual to human beings and hear him make statements that are surprising and difficult to understand, because of their being out of the ordinary and the conventional, in the face, yes, of such disasters as those that happened in the Philippines recently.