Delivered sermon on Luke 10:25-37 in Old Catholic Church, University Parish, Bonn, Germany.
“The one who showed him mercy is his neighbor.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (cf10:37)
On May 30, 2019 during the feast of the Ascension, I was the preacher in Mannheim, after the mass we had the coffee and tea. There was a lady who felt so helpless and so touched and disturbed upon hearing my sermon. My sermon then was about “to be a witness is to be a martyr so that others may live justly.” Then I went on telling how it to be witnessing in the Philippines is?
That in terms of wealth distribution, only 0.1 percent of the Philippines’ adult population have fortunes amounting to over $1 million or P50M or €894.414,00. On the other hand, 86.6 percent of Filipino adults has wealth worth below $10,000 or P500K or €8.942,54. With poverty plaguing the country and employment opportunities being scarce, many Filipinos are unable to afford housing, which puts them in danger of turning to the streets for accommodation. In 2012, extreme poverty within the Philippines affected 19.2 percent of the population or around 18.4 million people. It grows up to 21.6% of the population that lives below the national poverty line in 2015. The proportion of employed population below $1.90 purchasing power parity a day in 2015 is 8.3%. For every 1,000 babies born in the Philippines in 2016, 27 die before their fifth birthday.
That this is the reason why drug trade is so appealing in the Philippines. It is not true that the drug problems is the cause of poverty but it is the poverty and impoverishment that makes Philippines a country of rampant drug addiction and drug trading is growing so much because poor people will be forced to sell drugs for a living. But then again the government misses the point but resorted to a killing spree which now reached up to 30,000 victims most of them are poor.
That a considerable section or number of people in the society are clamoring, shouting for justice especially the urban poor sector, the farmers, the workers, the lumads (IP’s) and even those in the government employees because of the economic uncertainty, human rights violations and injustices. Largely, it is because the economy is controlled by a few 1% elite of the population. But the response to them is killing. Every now and then we will know of massacres of poor farmers, evacuation of the lumads from their places because of military operation, demolition of urban poor people, retrenchment of workers both in the private and public sectors. Thus, pushed by all of these kind of oppression that brings misery, many of them are now in the mountains taking up arms against the government.
That witnessing in the Philippines means taking side with the poor, oppressed and marginalized sectors of the Philippine society. Doing this may not and does not end doing the works of mercy by way of giving food to the hungry and giving aide to them who are homeless, naked and needy. It is also asking the question why all of this happened to the people of God. It is identifying and pointing out the reason and causes for the impoverishment. It is denouncing the evils in the society which includes the economic system, the government leaders and the intervention of imperialist and capitalist countries into our internal affairs especially on the economy. Then by doing these prophetic and pastoral role of the church, we in the church’s leadership are tagged and branded to be rebels and even communist and many of us just like Jesus and the apostles and first disciples were killed and martyred.
Now, that woman in Mannheim asked me what she can do. So I answered her and the people on that table of coffee and tea, “just be the neighbor – a neighbor to the poor, oppressed and struggling people in the Philippines.” By so doing, is imitating the Samaritan in the Gospel story we read today. The Samaritan while traveling came near the man who Jesus in the story described “…was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead…” but unlike the priest and the levite, the Samaritan “…when he saw him (the victim), was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” (10:33-34).
Like the lawyer, or a teacher of the law in today’s Gospel story, we should be able to tell ourselves that we need to be the neighbor to those who have become victims of the oppressive systems in the society.
The challenge. Have we become neighbors ourselves?
- What do we say and what is our position about the issues on refugees in our country? When Germany is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention but some sections are now pushing the state not to accept or approve refugees as they perceive it to be worrisome for their personal economic future? Are we not or do we or will we refuse to be the neighbors of these refugees?
- Do we hear the lawyer in this story saying that the one who showed mercy is the neighbor? Clearly we heard it? Can we now identify ourselves with the one who showed mercy and be a neighbor also?
- Are we now ready also to hear and follow Jesus who commanded, “Go and do likewise”?
May we be blessed by the mercy of God so that we can truly love God by becoming the neighbor to the needy, the persecuted and marginalized people in the society. Amen.
26 November 2019