This reflection, which is based on Luke 21:5-19, was written on 12 November 2016. It’s interesting to read, so in lieu of a new homily, I’m re-sharing this today. Equally telling are the comments. 🙁
I don’t know about you, but for me, this last week has been tough. It’s like just when I wasn’t looking, the rug was pulled out from under me. And not once, but twice!
I’m of course referring to: (a) the disappointing Supreme Court ruling on the Marcos burial–a classic case of cowering behind the letter of the law instead of being faithful to its spirit; and (b) the stunning result of the US presidential election when someone who has been described as a narcissist-bigot-misogynist–all rolled into one–has been voted as the most powerful man in the free world. “A double whammy!” a friend texted from Vancouver.
I suspect a number of like-minded people felt the same way. All you need to do is note the striking parallelism between the street protests in the Philippines and those in America. For many people, it felt like the end of the world as we knew it. I, for one, felt dazed, bewildered, heartbroken, even afraid. One metaphor that comes to mind is that of waking up to some kind of zombie apocalypse and walking among ruins.
What lies in ruins? Many of the things that we cherish, values that people have fought for, lived and died for, lie as wreckage: The justice we hope for, and the decency and rationality that are the very foundations of society. Specifically, our very notions of heroism and statesmanship have been demolished. How do we explain this to our children? It feels like a betrayal that we never saw coming.
So, I so get it when our Lord today talks about temples being torn down, “when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” When our Lord warns his listeners about being deceived, misled. and persecuted, when he talks of terrifying events that can make one feel like the world has come to an end, when he warns us of being handed over by those closest to us, by the very people we trust–he speaks to me. I understand. I think I know exactly what he is talking about!
But amidst all these dire prophecies, our Lord also leaves us a promise: “Not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
In other words, don’t feel let down too long. Don’t give up. And that all-important, much-needed word: Persevere.
I know: Easier said than done! But this week I also came across inspiring and consoling words from a brother Jesuit that gave my spirit a much-needed life.
Fr. Danny Huang SJ, General Counsellor to the Jesuit Superior General and Regional Assistant for Asia Pacific posted the following on his Facebook page: “9.11.16. The world seems to have become a darker, more dangerous place. I guess we just have to light whatever lights we can, trusting, hoping.”
And then Father Danny quotes from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings:
Gandalf said, “Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again.” “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” Frodo said. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Indeed. We are told what we most need to hear in these trying times: Persevere.
So for our prayer, we may do well to ask the Lord: Given all that has transpired, what would He like us to do with this time that He has given us?
In times like this, it’s consoling to recall this old prayer…
Song excerpt from India.Arie.
16 replies on “THE WRECKAGE OF HEROES AND PRESIDENTS”
It’s curious how after 3 years, reading the same homily directed me now to focus on “persevere”. If the reality of 2016 gets juxtaposed with that of 2019, we can tell nothing much has changed for the better as we had hoped. In fact, sadly, the conditions have worsened. But our prayers and hopes remain the same. We still pray for dignity of life for everyone. We still hope for peace everywhere. And if the Lord has not granted our prayers and hopes for the last 3 years, let’s continue to tug on His heartstring; let’s persevere. He will stay by us.
This may be a pointless exercise and/or waste of time, but I still want to give my comments to you, Ms. Cora Calaustro.
You wrote that ” as a Catholic you cannot in your conscience be part of this slaughter” and hence you did not vote for “someone(Hillary) who favours the killing of the unborn child ….”
Really, that was your reason for voting Trump?
Hillary is PRO CHOICE. Her message was that loud and clear – “A WOMAN’s RIGHT TO CHOOSE is a woman’s right to choose. ”
As a feminist she is “defending women’s rights to make their own healthcare decision” and she has supported “late-pregnancy restrictions on abortion with exceptions for the health of the mother and fetus.” Perhaps her message got lost in translation. Who knows
Anyway, as a woman, I agree with her.
By the way, what is worst?- the slaughter of an UNBORN child/children or the slaughter of one LIVING child or hundreds of LIVING children in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. who died as a result of ia superpower’s and/or terrorists’ madness?
Who is (more) guilty of breaking the Thou Shall Not Kill commandment ???
What about the Golden Rule???
Well, despite our diversity of opinions, as what Fr. J has reminded us, let’s move on.
With this, I wish you and the rest of the Fil-Americans more happy years in Trumpland.
May you all continue to live your American dreams.
And to us, Pinoys in “Digong’s Killing Fields,” – May God the source of HOPE, fill us with all joy and peace in believing.”
Thanks, Fr. J. I share your sentiments. An op ed article shared with me reminded me that God IS in this picture. (We don’t pretend to know God’s mind.) That realization made me crawl out of my dark hole where I was becoming increasingly disturbed, confused, angry and disengaged. As expressed by you and your fellow Jesuits, we can choose daily to create/give birth to (incarnate) some positive change that reflects our values (like compassion and respect for all without judgment), bring God’s presence, within the locus of what we control. We can create some small light that dispels some darkness. It continues to be our calling.
Thanks to all of you who have shared your thoughts. Remember, this space is open to a diversity of opinions, so let’s respect one another’s opinion. I shared my feelings about these recent events in my post, knowing fully well that there will be those who disagree–and I respect them for it. The point, however, is that whenever we experience setbacks, we are asked to persevere, find the pins of light that will guide us in making it through. 🙂 God bless you all!
While Marcos may not be deserving of where he is buried, what matters is what occured during the last few moments of his life. Let us hope he has reconciled with our Lord before his last breath. Our time will come and we will never be deserving of His mercy but He will give it if we are truly repentant. So why can’t we give the same to our brother who was lost?
Given all that has transpired, what would He like us to do with the time He has given us? Yes! It’s the right question. But others issues are recommended. Thus, what have we forgotten to do before that has transpired? Too often we overlook to pray to God when the events turn to our advantage. Too often also, by intellectual laziness or by fear of having to change our behavior or our vision of the mankind, we turn a blind eyes to the warning signs which announce unpleasant events, disrupting our comfort or our habits.
Will we hear the call of Pope Francis who asks us to radically change our way of life in order to preserve our common home? If we not able to change it, isn’t not only a rug that will pull out from under us but it is the earth that disappears under our feet.
Thank you Fr Johnny for reminding us that a war is taking place on different battlefields. It is up to each of us to choose his/her own and to mobilize his/her skills and abilities to defend rationality, justice, pace, and freedom and to pray to God as if the victory depended only on Him.
And let us not forget: it is our errors and our faults which condemn us not those of others. It is for our faults that we ask for God’s forgiveness. I believe that all peoples on the Earth are children of God. We have to act that His kingdom come, that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Grant us all the courage to persevere. Can’t do it alone. We need each other, ALL trusting in God, picking our way through the ruins…sama-sama.
As always, thanks a lot Fr. J for this beautiful message. Indeed, the world is going down the drain.
With the victory of Trump, the rise of Digong and now the decision of the SC on the Marcos burial, I too felt like “waking up to some kind of zombie apocalypse and walking among ruins”
Two days ago an Irish friend of mine wrote me this – ” Today our professor mused on the dark world we live in and how it is a good thing to look to fiction for an understanding of how messed up things can be out there!”
@Cora Calaustro: I totally disagree with you for saying Trump is the lesser of the two evils.
I believe you are one of his Trumpians or Trumpeteers who were easily deceived by him, a man of volatile temperament, a bully, a racist, etc.. .
Don’t forget Hitler and Mussolini who also preached fear and hatred. Like Trump, they also had millions of scapegoats on whom to blame the country’s problems..
Also,Cora, you should remember that Trump’s victory was NOT a miracle or due to prayers answered.
He won because – No. 1, your America has this bizarre electoral college voting system,
and No. 2, the global trend of populism where leaders keep its poeple angry and fearful.
Do you really believe that he could make your America great again like in the past ????
If yes, welcome to Trump’s Reality Show
Back to your lovely message, Fr. J, yes, we should NEVER GIVE UP in this tumultuous time.
I would continue to ask God ” to grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.. and the courage to change the things I can.”
To all of you- have a blessed and peaceful Sunday!
@Mary Lu I just want to tell you that I am not one of those Trumpians or Trumpeteers that you implied! I am not even a Democrat nor a Republican but I know who I am voting for when I cast that ballot last Tuesday! I will not vote for someone who favors the killing of the unborn child even through the last trimester! As a Catholic I cannot in my conscience be part of this slaughter! You also don’t have to instruct me about the Electoral College because if you know how it works and how Trump was able to gain those Electoral votes you yourself will know how hard it is to win the Presidency of the US and may think that it was a miracle too!The Popular vote doesn’t get the presidency here in the US unlike the Philippines and there is a valid reason why the founding fathers made it so. The American people just got fed up with too much liberalism that went on during those 8 years with Obama that’s why they voted against it! A lot voted for Trump because they want change. And yes I would rather be in Trumps Reality Show as you call it than in Digongs Killing Fields!
In God We Trust and God Bless America that’s our mantra. God bless the Philippines too!
The devil is really conning us putting Trump as the pro life not Hillary. He didn’t want Trump to win because he isn’t likeable. Think of it this way, the President gets to elect the Supreme Court justices which is for life. Presidency will end in 4 years. If Hillary won abortion will become legal. The Vatican didn’t say who to vote for but did say abortion is “intrinsincally evil”. It was hard for me to vote for Trump if we had a better choice it would make it easier but a big part of how society has reached this point is our fault. We insist on what we think and not what God taught us to do. Don’t let evil win by using fighting words when people don’t agree with us, that’s what the devil wants to happen. We will also be judged one day and saying I am not as bad as Trump is not the “right answer” that will take us to heaven.
What grates is not that Marcos will be buried. He should have long been buried. What grates is that Marcos is being buried in the Libingan of my heroes. He’s not my hero, excuse me. Even my already buried heroes there will turn over in their graves.
But what disturbs me the most is that so many things wrong are made to appear right. Word meanings get changed, values get recalculated, consciences get turned around, standards of morality get ignored, the rule of law dashed to the ground! If this upheaval is not apocalyptic, what is it?
Lord, forgive us. We do not know what we are doing.
Father, what’s happening in the Philippines is totally different from what is happening here in the US. In the US we didn’t have many choices in this election. The one who won was the lesser of two evils. Both of our candidates were not model presidentiables. The American electorate voted on principles and policies that they think had been getting way out of hand in the last eight years of the Obama presidency! I for one adhered and voted according to my conscience.. Hilary’s stance on abortion is one of the most important reason why she lost. The Catholic Bishops here in the States did not endorse anybody but asked all Catholics three months before the election to pray the rosary and to say a novena prayers each day before the election. Even the Evangelicals and other Christians did the same. Almost all the media here were for Hillary. Her party spent millions of dollars just to get her elected whereas Trump spent his own money! Everyone thought that this election was already won by Hillary even before the election because the massive mis information of the media regarding Trump. The Liberalism that swept the US in the 8 years of Obama rule was just getting out of hand and that is why the American people had to vote against its tide. I consider Trumps win here in the US a miracle and that the founding fathers in this great land were really guided by God when they wrote the Constitution! Trump might not be the perfect guy for the job but the American people had spoken and there is work at hand! In God we Trust that’s our mantra now and of course God bless America!
Same here. My family can’t believe I voted for Trump but I voted with my conscience not intellect or opinion. The greatest saints were sinners. Maybe this will help him grow. I believe in giving the job to people who complain a lot, they will either get it done or realize their fault finding was not productive. Either way, God is working on him too as with each one of us.
This is a good one
How can darkness engulf one’s light? It doesn’t. It’s only us who turns our lights out. The darker it is, isnt it that our light is even more brighter, as long as it’s on? When the one beside has his candle out, wouldn’t it be only normal to light his candle with yours? Being troubled and affected by the concerns of the world shouldn’t be an excuse to extinguish one’s light.
Times are indeed uncertain, then all the more we need our light to strong to see and pursue good clearly.
I empathize Father. Thanks for this