December 22, 2019, Fourth Sunday of Advent. A reflection on Matthew 1:18-25.

The Advent wreath of Lapedian Parish, Diocese of Pagadian posted in the FB account of Jeny Espra.

Joseph was troubled, in a state of un-peace in his heart upon knowing this very disturbing information that his fiancée was already pregnant before he could ever touch her. Enough reason for him to decide to dismiss her. But being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, he planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when Joseph had resolved to execute his plan, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, (v20-21) “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife…” (v24).

What do we have here? Here’s a man who want to get out from trouble but wanted to do it quietly. But how quiet would it be? No, it will not be that way because when the times go by the pregnancy on Mary will not be hidden from public. In their culture, it is not easy, it will be so embarrassing to parents and community to get pregnant without a husband and it is considered a sin. Mary will be maligned and might even be stoned to death for such a mess. By breaking up with Mary and dismissing her, Joseph will be free and out of responsibility from Mary and her son-to-be. If Joseph did, what can be the scenario, how can we imagine the situation? By listening to the angel in his dream, Joseph has become a savior to Mary and Jesus, the savior in her womb. By doing so, there was peace in Joseph and Mary too and the prince of peace as prophesied was born.

In situations of trouble and un-peace we get to learn from the models of Joseph. He planned, he listened, and he agreed and acted. Now, we want peace? Let us plan, let us listen, let us agree and let us act on what we have agreed.

We must have to plan. Planning is the process of making an advance decision on what to do in a given situation, when to do it and who is responsible to do it. It is a process that determines a course of action, so as to realize an end goal. It will bring us to where we want to go right from where we are. But it is important to note that planning needs listening.

We should listen. Listening is a skill that many people did not have. People and leaders should have this skill because effective listening can help to resolve problems, conflicts. It can build trust, inspire subordinates and people, and thus strengthen camaraderie. It makes good result. Joseph does not only listen once but several times. He also listened to the angel when he was told to go and escape from King Herod’s order to kill all the children. He again listened to the angel to go back to Jerusalem when the king was dead. Listening will make us realize that our first impulse could be wrong just like what Joseph did and had. By listening, Joseph had already helped Jesus before He could start his ministry.

We need to agree or reach to an agreement. Agreeing is the process of coming to one mind. It is arriving at a settlement, an arrangement, an understanding that is mutually beneficial or that is good for everybody and not for one side or a portion only – not only for a portion of a society for example. Most of all, it is not for the benefit and honor of one person or one leader but for everyone. Joseph agreed to the angel’s advice when he knew that Mary conceived a savior of the people. As a Jew himself, he knew how hard the life was for the Jewish people and that they badly needed a messiah, a savior. So, he doesn’t save himself, he dismissed his own interest and agreed to take Mary to be his wife.

We have to act. Acting is taking into being what we planned, listened and agreed. It is doing something. We must stop the attitude of always reacting but instead keep on moving. We must not go idle. We must find a way to do what has been agreed so we can really succeed. Joseph took Mary to be his wife. He realized that his plan and first impulse was wrong after he listened to and agreed with the angel.

With peace as the theme for this Sunday, I cannot help but look at how the peace in the land is determined and then how “peace talks” is being undertaken by the parties of the society like the Philippine government and how is it being brought to the public’s attention or at least how we as public see it and maybe how we should participate in it.

I am optimistically praying for the success of the implementation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) as a result of the peace talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). However, I cannot keep blind and deaf on the polarization among the muslims or bangsamoro. What will happen now to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which also had a peace agreement in 1996 that created the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which is now dissolved to accommodate BARMM and the MILF. They claimed to be neglected and not part of the BARMM. We also have a new group now, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) that broke away from the MILF during the talks for dissatisfactions. Also, there are many towns, cities, provinces with muslim populations which are not part of the BARMM. How do they differ from the muslims in BARMM? On the other thought, what will happen to the MILF now with the birth of BARMM? Do they exist with BARMM or we only have BARMM and no more MILF? We can only pray that the latest agreement, the BARMM can be implemented to benefit the common-tao of the muslim populace in Mindanao and pave the way for a united and developed muslims in Mindanao coexisting with Christians and Lumads – the indigenous peoples.

During the time of President Fidel Ramos and in September 1992, the Hague Joint Declaration was inked by the Philippine Government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and has become the guide to the negotiations, formal or informal. They also have inked many other important agreements including the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHIHL). They almost have inked the second agenda which is on the social and economic reforms but it was no longer possible after President Duterte has unilaterally terminate it through Presidential Declaration No. 360 in November 2017. Except for President Ramos all the succeeding presidents wanted a short cut to the talks and come up with their own way of agreement which is the surrender of the NDFP with the New People’s Army (NPA) following the will of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) dismissing what the two parties agreed in September 1992 and the subsequent agreements.

My sisters and brothers, the peace talks in the Philippines – between the Bangsamoro and the Philippine government and between the NDFP and the Philippine government concerns you and me and all of us Filipinos. They were, they are and they will be talking about us. Let us find our way to participate in it. As we lit the candle of peace today, let us call on our leaders, be it in the government of the republic or of the revolutionary groups to be like Joseph who planned and listened and corrected his plan and reached to agreements which they faithfully and sincerely implement. Resume peace talks now!!!

Also read: Peace in Time of Duterte? at https://hiyaw.net/peace-in-the-time-of-duterte/

Until next for the Christmas 2019.

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