Radical desperation

GOD'S WORD TODAY - Cris Fajardo, S.J. - The Philippine Star

Desperation makes us do outrageous things. It is the emotional state in which a person feels a situation to be hopeless and without satisfactory options. Oftentimes, decisions made in desperation are reckless and destructive. However, there are times too when desperation pushes us face-to-face with our limitation, crashes us to the proverbial rock bottom. And in that state of utter helplessness we discover a much deeper and inexhaustible resource — our faith in God.

The hemorrhaging woman in today’s Gospel was desperate. “She has suffered greatly in the hands of many doctors and had spent all she had.” She has nothing else to rely on. “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be healed.” That was her final hope.

“Your daughter has died; why trouble the master any longer?” the crowd rebuked Jairus, the synagogue official. Out of desperation he believed, and brought Jesus to his house.

Both the hemorrhaging woman and Jairus received the graces they sought. She was cured, and Jairus’ daughter was restored back to life. They were desperate and their desperation brought out the best in them, they chose to believe in the power and wisdom of God.

But this is not always the case. In moments of desperation, we sometimes find ourselves heeding the crowd’s injunction to Jairus: “Why trouble the teacher, any longer?” Why bother God when he seems to be powerless and absent anyway? Or, why bring God in the purely human affairs of politics, population, science and economics? Why bother God in the issue of international maritime disputes. Indeed, we may choose to leave God outside the room and deal with issues in purely human way.

Certainly, it is difficult to discern God’s wisdom in our personal lives, and much more in our national affairs especially with the pluralistic society that we live in. However, this is no reason to altogether block God from our consideration. The Holy Scripture tells of many unscrupulous kings who in time of desperation abandoned God, made unholy alliances and turned to idols. Truly, desperation can turn believers into pagans.

The invitation for us is to choose to remain faithful. In our desperate moments, whether in our personal lives or societal life as Filipino people, we are never alone. God works and intervenes in our human affairs, and he normally does not through fantastic miracles but through the quiet striving of people who are in-tune with His ways.

God is present in groups of farmers who together discern to pursue organic farming even if all other farmers around them embrace the chemical-heavy commercial farming. The Divine is at work in small Catholic Christian communities like in Cabanglasan, Bukidnon, who struggle to hold societal peace together in their feeble arms while public service and order are yet to be properly laid down by the Government.

God labors in our public affairs through morally guided intelligent analyses and public discourses. He can work in the prudent way that the Judicial and Bar Council will scrutinize nominees for the new Chief Justice of the land (we pray they do). He can be present in the halls of the legislative buildings as Senators and Congressmen excruciate in crafting laws that will promote the common and greater good of the people even if it would mean lesser benefits to the interests of senators and congressmen themselves (we pray they do). God can be at-work in the Cabinet meetings headed by P-Noy in the pursuit of tuwid na daan which (we hope and pray) would not stop at political and economic spheres, but reach to deeper moral and cultural formation of our people.

Yet still, atheist-humanistic strain in our society is perennially attractive and can even be noble sounding: “Why bother to believe in God when you can live without it? We are capable of ruling our lives without recourse to ancient superstitions,” they would say.

We bother God because just like the hemorrhaging woman and Jairus we are desperate. And this desperation is real. It is the fate of creatures, of finite human beings. Desperation is the fate of human affairs. There are few things that we can control in our life, true. But, the things that are essential: health, meaning, real joy and love, life and death, and the life after… the things that really truly matter… they are beyond our manipulation. Vis-à-vis these things we are poor and powerless. In all truth and honesty, we are radically desperate. That is why like the bleeding woman and Jairus, we dare trouble the Master.

(Fr. Cris Fajardo is a Jesuit missionary who served as parish priest of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Cabanglasan, Bukidnon. He now resides at Loyola House of Studies as he waits to go to his new mission.)

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