February 2, 2020, Fourth Sunday of Epiphany. A reflection on Matthew 5:1-12.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (5:11)
Have you ever thought why church people even if attacked and persecuted are still standing firm on their ground and continue to serve God in His people?
This gospel account is commonly called as the beatitudes when Jesus was telling His audience about the blessedness of those who have less and those who are seeking to be good because they will be rewarded in the end – the statement which start with “blessed are those…” We must also notice here in verse 11 the shift of the start of the statement “blessed are you…” which is a shift to the second person – to the audience themselves from the “blesses are those” which is in the third person. Not only that. It has also shifted from the rewards of what is lacking and for doing good to a straightforward blessedness when reviled, persecuted and uttered all kinds of evil falsely on the account of Jesus.
Jesus must have plainly predicted that verbal abuses, slander and insults will be suffered by the disciples and His followers in time when He is gone like how he also predicted that they will be persecuted and even killed in His name.
In the Philippine society today it is very challenging and trying times for the followers of Jesus – the Christians and believers are confronted with the attacks from within the churches and outside forces of the government, the police and the military. In the inside, many worshippers who are diehard supporters of President Duterte are attacking their church leaders especially the ordained alleging that their own pastors, priests, ministers are no longer doing their ministry within the ambit of the religious sphere only because these leaders are critiquing the president’s anti-drug war which is obviously anti-poor, anti-human rights and anti-life having killed more than 30 thousand mostly poor people.
In the outside of the church, the military and police are branding and accusing the clergy and churches and church organizations to be supporters, members and fronts of the communist party which they wrongfully to alleged be terrorists. Many of them are named in graffiti-like paintings, banners, leaflets, streamers on the walls, along the roads, bridges, waiting sheds, and walls of churches. After all this kinds of vilifications several clergy have been ridiculously filed with trumped-up cases of kidnapping, human trafficking, illegal possession of firearms and explosives, inciting to sedition and even perjury. A number of them are even killed.
These church people are only doing and following what the Lord, God has charged them through prophet Micah “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (6:8) Thus, they served and lived their preaching in the lives of the poor peasants, the indigenous peoples, the workers, the urban poor, and other sectors of the society who have fallen victims of the anti-people policies of the governments and the super-impositions of the foreign monopolies of capitals facilitated by the International Monetary Funds – World Bank and others.
Now you know that even if under attacked, they are still standing and tried to be firm in pursuing God’s mission because of their deep understanding of the ministry and the meaning of their baptismal covenant in the first place and the ordination vows for the clergy. In our baptism we committed to follow the Lord, the God of Justice who made it to free the people from the bondage of slavery. In the ordination vows, those ordained have committed themselves to lead God’s people in the service of God through His people especially the least, the victims. These commitments made all of us stand firm from the internal and external attacks against us.
Now it is time for you to make a self-identification. Are you one of those inside the church who is attacking your leaders for your self-interests – because you are afraid to lose the benefits you are enjoying right now and because you are fooled and still blinded by the reality around you about the increase of corruptions in the government, the still proliferation of drugs in the country and that poverty is still and continued to be the biggest problem of our society today? Are you the military and police officers who are only following orders from your higher authority and that you are those who are after the achievements and rank promotions and that you never attempted to even objectively ask and dig the truth of the matter and the orders and commands that you received? Isn’t it hat you are only to obey the orders which are right and just and correct? You are the people who falsely reviled us, persecuted us and uttered all kinds of evil against us on the account of Jesus whom we imitated in the service to people. All of you are the reasons for our blessedness.
Until next for the Fifth Sunday of Epiphany.