Behold, I make all things new

GOD'S WORD TODAY - Manuel V. Francisco, S.J. -

Behold, I make all things new. In the Book of Revelation, John of Patmos, the imprisoned Christian leader, reveals what the Lord had promised the seven early Christian communities in Asia Minor which were being persecuted by the Roman Empire: “He will dwell with them and they will be his people…. He will wipe away every tear….” The Lord promises: “Behold, I make all things new.”

These are God’s promises to us, too, as a people—that He will remain with us, relieve our suffering, and renew us. The coming May 10, 2010 elections is the graced opportunity for us to cooperate with God’s desire to renew our land.

Some points for reflection on the forthcoming elections:

Plurality of Christian responses. A situation may call forth a variety of valid Christian responses. As Paul VI wrote in Octogesima Adveniens: “In concrete situations … one must recognize a legitimate variety of possible options. The same Christian faith can lead to different commitments.”

During the Hello Garci controversy, the Christian community was divided. There was no consensus regarding how best to resolve the crisis of the legitimacy of our incumbent President. We realized that prayer and critical discernment led us to varying responses: to allow the government to reform itself as it had promised, to further investigate the matter through a Truth Commission and to demand the resignation of the president. These three options—reformation, investigation and resignation—had their own merits. But committed Christians vilified one another for not espousing their respective discerned response.

Similarly, we are blessed with several candidates for president and vice-president, men and women of competence and character. No one among them can claim a monopoly of good intentions, virtues and capability. Alas, some candidates pretend to be our messiahs. Alas, the way many of us champion our candidates, we seem to imply that there is no goodness in the others. On the contrary, the Spirit of the Lord dwells within each one, planting and nourishing goodness from within. And so, as the Gospel today proclaims, we will be identifiable as Christians by our love for one another. We are thus called to respect one another’s informed decision as to whom to vote for come May 10.

Complexity of Eligibility. It is intellectually naïve to vote for or reject a candidate based on a single issue. A single issue or trait does not define the unfathomable complexity of our persons. A particular virtue or an isolated sin—taken apart from the entirety of my person and life—does not define me. Who I am is determined by the conflation of various virtues and traits, my past and my present way of life, and so on. When people identify us with a single mistake in the past or a singular achievement, we react by saying, “Huwag ninyo akong ikahon.” I am more than a single feat or a single failure.

Similarly, neither ought we vote or reject a candidate based on a single issue or a single trait. One’s ancestry does not totally define one’s person. Nor does a candidate’s stance on a particular issue. The pattern of one’s way of life and the pattern of issues one has championed or not are more indicative of a candidate’s character or lack of. To vote based on a single issue is to insult the person of a candidate and our intelligence. We cannot afford to be myopic when the renewal of our people is at stake.

Empowering the Poor. How much does it cost to mount a senatorial or presidential campaign? In the Philippines, only the rich can run for higher public office. Thus, on the one hand, members of the oligarchy run for public office, are elected and manage our political-economic life. On the other hand, the poor elect them into office, vesting them with power to rule over our lives. Ultimately, the poor who constitute the vast majority of the 50.7 million registered voters determine whom to represent them.

Alas, we do not live in a perfect democracy. Alas, the freedom of the poor to vote conscientiously is undermined by the pressure of poverty to sell their vote, by lack of access to information, by intimidation by provincial warlords.

Nonetheless, the Lord promises that He will dwell with us, make us His people and renew our land. But God cannot impose His holy desires upon us. We have to want them desperately and work for them diligently. As we gird for national elections the following Monday, we pray that the forthcoming automated elections protect the integrity of our votes and that we elect leaders who will champion the cause of those who have least in life and be instruments of the Lord’s plan and promise to renew our patrimony and our people.

Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ is a prolific composer of liturgical music and serves on the faculty of the Loyola School of Theology. For feedback on this column, email tinigloyola@yahoo.com.

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