The Catholic as a citizen

AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman - The Philippine Star

Easter brings hope for a better tomorrow! Now that we’ve cleansed ourselves during the Holy Week period, I hope that every Roman Catholic Filipino has rekindled a Christ-like spirit to stand for the test of good versus evil.

On the brink of the national election period, we are already faced with candidates seeking desperate measures. Day by day, we read and watch the news about too much fighting and hatred amongst one another. Even those who belong to the same team gnaw at each other. Talk about unity! It’s a good thing we paused to observe Lent. All of us must discern and reflect on our thoughts, words and deeds.

Witnessing the behavior and attitude of the candidates these days, we see the vile and their wickedness. How can one not see the difference between good and evil? How can people support a Barabas-like candidate over a Christ-like candidate? Hasn’t history taught us to look beyond the naked eye in order to see the beauty of one’s soul and the true essence of a person?

Our hala bira mentality will continue to destroy our country. Our political candidates should elevate their spirits and start refining their manners. They should also redirect the negative energy of their supporters. True leaders will always stand up for what is morally correct.

I am quite sure a significant number of devotees have included intercessions for their candidates to win in the May elections. In fact, the candidates must have done the same thing too on bended knees. But who will God listen to?

For all our faults, weaknesses, shortcomings and our darkest sins, God’s love and redemption are what sustains us as a people. We have a strong belief in God’s goodness and love and the power of prayer. We pray in everything and for everything we do. We pray before meals, when we celebrate, before we take an exam, when we embark on a business venture, before an airplane takes off, when we are sick, when someone dies, when we need help to hurdle the challenges in life, for guidance and for thanksgiving, Yes, we invoke the name of God many times in our daily lives. Even the candidates in the coming election get to be prayed over by their church leaders with the hope that they will win and be the beacon of light to the nation. But who amongst these candidates must we pray for to lead the nation?

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), in its pastoral letter dated Feb. 25, 2022, did not endorse a specific candidate but even without mentioning who they will support, we see a flash of pink around them.  The National Council of the Laity has, however, already expressed their endorsement for the pink crusade. This is of course parallel to what the local laity councils of numerous dioceses have also done.

The pastoral letter reiterates the role of the Church not only during the elections. She puts herself at the forefront of the battle against the “pandemic of lies.” History taught us how the Church was persecuted by repressive regimes, including recent ones, and how no one came out victorious against Her. For it is fallacious to think that the Church is the bishops, the priests and the nuns alone. They forgot that the Church is also the millions of voters out there.

Although the Church usually doesn’t meddle with the affairs of the state, it is still their duty to guide the people to do what is right. It is their duty to remind us – the candidates and the supporters – about our moral obligations towards God, ourselves, our families, our communities and country.  And this is actually what we heard last week. We were all reminded to live a good Christian life – to cleanse ourselves from sin.

Throughout the centuries, the Catholic Church has stood for all that is noble, good and true in the mind and heart of mankind. Despite the accumulated errors and calumnies of her detractors and enemies who impute to her, unwittingly or deliberately, the misdeeds and blunders of individuals and even the imperfections of man, the Church stands out as a stabilizing, enlightening and saving influence in human society, even if considered from a purely realistic point of view.

For over two thousand years, during which empires, governments and dynasties have fallen and others have risen in their place, the Catholic Church has stood her ground, which attests to the truth of her teachings and to her invincibility because of the holiness of her mission.

True it is that there have been Catholics who have committed wrongs and incurred errors, but this was not because they were Catholics but in spite of their being Catholics. Among the 12 apostles, there was a Judas; and it would be unjust to say that Judas’ sins represent the moral standard and the creed of the apostles.

The Catholic who is true to his/her principles and his/her creed, loves God, and obeys His commandments. He/She  loves and serves his/her fellow-men. He/she is a good citizen and a patriot. He/she is progressive and seeks truth and knowledge. He/she is courageous with that strength born of righteousness and virtue. He/she is a power for good in the community. He/she is a Christian gentleman/gentlewoman.

As my late father, Maximo V. Soliven, once wrote: Unless we transform ourselves, unless our hearts are changed as a nation, we shall not become free. Only when enough of us have been transformed will the changes come and victory be attained – a victory that will mean more than a change of faces.

It was Jose Rizal who said, only too accurately, “Tal pueblo, tal gobierno” (as the people are, so will be their government). We have, alas, gotten only the kind of government we deserve.

In one of her speeches, the late Cory Aquino narrated how seven years and seven months of suffering and privation in his lonely cell had affected Ninoy: When Ninoy emerged in prison, it seemed clear to those who knew him that much has changed in him. The superb political animal – shrewd, fast, eloquent and brave – who had placed his immense talents in the service of the Republic in the hope of public honors, had evolved into a man for whom love of country was only the other face of his love for God. And I think this is the truest and best kind of patriotism. It is only on this plane that patriotism ceases to be, as they say, the refuge of scoundrels and becomes, instead, the obligation of a Christian.

Let us continue to pray for the many politicians out there who need to have a change of heart – to cultivate a pure heart for a deeper love of country. Mabuhay!

Our Daily Bread: God works supernaturally. He changes lives dramatically and permanently, and He influences events to accomplish what we never could on our own.

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