REV. NIZA JOY F. SANTIAGO
Promotion of Church People’s Response-Europe
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34
Reading 2: 1 Cor 2:6-10
Gospel: Mt 5:17-37
Reading is one of the basic skills that we are taught as writing is a form of communication and expression. The mission works in the Philippines have always included literacy work because of the value put on the reading and studying the Bible. Vacation Bible Schools or Vacation Church Schools, Sunday schools and camps have included literacy training to be a vital part of the program. It is where the children begin to read the stories in the Bible for themselves. Reading then has become liberative as it empowers one to give voice to words and interpret them through one’s own lens. However, we cannot deny the influence our teachers and adults have with the way that we read. Which they were also influenced by their teachers and adults when they were younger. The lenses that we use in reading the Bible then have been greatly influenced by the ones who brought them to our islands in the first place, they were the missionaries, yet also our colonizers, the great conquerors of the world.
This week our readings speak of wisdom in the least. We are reminded to be mindful of our way of reading and which lens we are using. Are we reading with a white lens? Or with the lens of our colonizers? Or with privileged lens? Or are we reading with the lens of a people of the islands? Of a people oppressed and marginalized? Of the women and children? Of the least? We are invited to locate ourselves in reading and engaging with the Bible.
All of what was written are but subject to interpretation. Reading is interpreting. What we should be careful for is, the lens and voice that we are reading it with. We are reminded to read the Bible through the lens of justice, reconciliation and peace. As what Jesus has taught his disciples. Jesus was accused of abolishing the laws, as his teaching was different from that of the scribes and Pharisees. And because was Jesus calling them out for reading the laws through their privileged lenses. This could be dangerous reading though, dangerous in a world of greed and corruption, just as Jesus showed us. This is a reading that goes against the values of selfishness, dominion, violence – against the values of the Empire.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus adds a reading tip that is mostly taken for granted – mindfulness of the least. Jesus says that all that is written will not pass away until all is fulfilled, not even the smallest letter nor a single stroke (v.18). For in missing even the smallest letter and single stroke, we are losing the fullness of the meaning.
In this mindfulness of the least in reading, Jesus challenges us to read and interpret what is written especially in reading the Sacred Texts through the eyes of the least of the society. In Jesus’ sermon at the mount, Jesus invites the people to rethink and re-imagine what was commanded, re-think and re-imagine the laws and traditions handed down through generations.
In Jesus’ sermon concerning anger, one will not just be liable to judgment with murder but also with insulting one’s kapwa. Concerning adultery, even dirty thoughts and lustful desires towards one’s kapwa are as heavy as committing adultery. Concerning divorce, giving of a certificate of divorce does not suffice as one should mind the repercussions to one’s kapwa as well. Concerning oaths, one is not to swear by heaven nor earth nor even of one’s self for they are God’s but simply let your yes be yes and your no be no.
As I am reading this, I realized that we are to read the Bible and the commandments with the value of relationships, of community. In the first place, laws are written and decided upon by the whole community in order to guide and keep the good relations within, the well-being of the whole community. In our Filipino perspective, it is the value of pakikipagkapwa. The understanding of a shared self, where we see our kapwa as a part of our being and identity. More than strict and blind compliance to the rituals and legalities, the least is more concerned with one’s relations with their kapwa.
Time and time again, we are reminded of keeping our connections and relations with our kapwa. Just as the pandemic has taught us. Sadly though, it seems like the world is not learning and listening to the wisdom in the least. The world is still focused on producing more than what is needed, is fixated on owning and consuming more and more. Our modern lifestyle is contributing to the destruction of mother nature. We seem to be forgetting to see and hear our brothers and sisters that are hurting the most – the poor, the indigenous peoples, the farmers, the laborers, the women, the children. More and more women and children are still becoming victims of domestic abuse and sexual harassment. We, peoples of these islands seem to have forgotten the value of kapwa that is part of our spirituality.
Dangerous as it may be, as followers of Jesus and children of God, we are called to read the texts (letters, characters, symbols and all) around us through the lens of justice, reconciliation and peace. Guided by these values, let us read against selfishness, intimidation, oppression, violence, discrimination and dominion. Dangerous as it may be, we are not alone, for we have a broader circle of ecumenical families locally and globally as they are also a part of our self, our kapwa. Let us as kapwa Kristiano, kapwa tao and kapwa nilikha, identify with the least, recognize our smallness and read against the Empire.
Balik-Tanaw is a group blog of Promotion of Church People’s Response. The Lectionary Gospel reflection is an invitation for meditation, contemplation, and action. As we nurture our faith by committing ourselves to journey with the people, we also wish to nourish the perspective coming from the point of view of hope and struggle of the people. It is our constant longing that even as crisis intensifies, the faithful will continue to strengthen their commitment to love God and our neighbor by being one with the people in their dreams and aspirations. The Title of the Lectionary Reflection would be Balik –Tanaw , isang PAGNINILAY . It is about looking back (balik) or revisiting the narratives and stories from the Biblical text and seeing, reading, and reflecting on these with the current context (tanaw).