By SR. PAT FOX
Ps 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22.
2 Tm 1:8b-10
“God loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord” (Ps.33:5). These words from today’s Psalm reminding us that God is with us in history, drew me to a book review I read recently on the Book “Pananglagip: The North Remembers”. In the review written by Prof. Aurelio Agcaoilli, she says the stories and poems in the book are a “movement of activists whose resolve to do things right for our people was, and continues to be, our redeeming grace”. And that through the readings “we shall connect with all our ancestors, who since colonial times had been fighting for our freedom”.
The readings of today are very much about connecting with our ancestors in faith and call us to live the “justice and righteousness” they were called to. In the first reading this call comes to Abram, asking him to leave “country, kindred and father’s household” for a land God will show him (Gen: 12:1-4a). Not a young man at 75, according to the story, Abram trusts God and God’s promise to make him a great nation through whom all the families of the earth will be blessed. Abram’s openness to God is in contrast to the former chapter where growing evil and violence culminates with the people building their own tower of babel, relying on their own powers, to make themselves famous. God’s election of Abram shows that God will not abandon us but continues to call people in faith to love justice and peace.
The Gospel reading (Mt 17:1-9) is full of imagery of ancestors and stories from the Hebrew Scriptures. Reading the account of the Transfiguration, we recall Moses covered with the cloud on Mt Sinai when given the stone tablets of the commandments and God speaking to him from the cloud. We have Elijah who is to return before the Messiah appears. The face and garments of Jesus which shone and were white recalls the prophecy of Daniel where he sees the “son of man” who will establish a kingdom which will not be corrupted (Dan 7).
That this Kingdom is not yet is obvious in the call of Abram to journey to leave all familiar supports, the oppressive situation in the time of Daniel, as well as the allusion to the Servant song in Isa 42:1ff, where God is “well pleased” with the servant who will not rest until establishing justice on earth. Just like Moses who went down the mountain to the people, Jesus tells his disciples, they also cannot stay on the mountain but must go down and continue God’s work of bringing justice and righteousness for all of creation. Jesus warns them that staying faithful to God’s call will not be easy, preempting his death and resurrection, but he also tells them “not to be afraid”.
Paul repeats this encouragement in the reading from 2 Tim 1:8-10. Paul begins this chapter recalling his forefathers, as also the faith of Timothy’s mother and grandmother. He reminds that “God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power and love (v7). Speaking from prison himself, Paul asks Timothy not to be ashamed to live the Gospel, but to join in his suffering for the gospel, to follow God’s call which” is not according to our works”, as shown by our ancestors, but according God’s “purpose and grace” given in Christ; a Christ who was tortured and killed in solidarity with all those who suffer for the gospel, sure in the realization that this is where we find life.
Today as we see capitalism resulting in massive social injustice with the gap between rich and poor growing, and rampant ecological destruction, those who would seek justice and peace, making reasonable demands to improve their human condition and the rights of the earth, are harassed, imprisoned or killed. Government response has included an increase of red-tagging, even of of church people among others, who dare to live out the gospel message. Yet our readings tell us both to expect this but know that we have been given the Spirit of wisdom and courage; that the God of History is with us, and that God’s kingdom will come. We are called to be brave, to step out of the known, to stand with the poor and oppressed, to call for justice. As Bishop Alminnaza said recently “I cannot be silent amid violence and injustice”. We recall our ancestors in faith and as Paul and Prof Agcaoilli remind us, we have so many men and women ancestors who have courageously shown us the way. Recently we remembered EDSA 1 where people came together ready to fight for truth, justice, freedom and peace. Today’s readings challenge us to keep alive this dream of a better future for all, knowing we are in the faithful tradition of our ancestors and confident that God will never abandon us. And so, we pray Psalm 33 which ends “Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (v22).
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).