February 16, 2020, the Sixth Sunday of Epiphany. A reflection on Matthew 5:21-37.
“Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.” (v37)
Our Gospel reading for this Sunday can have several themes for reflections. Almost every verse can be a good point for reflection but in its totality, it is practical advice of Jesus as he is pointing out about how the commandments or the laws of Moses have to be live out. It is about following them beyond the way the Pharisees tried to follow and impose them literally by simply avoiding to violate them. It should include the effects of it inwardly and the purpose is to maintain a relationship that is not only pleasing to fellow human beings but which is for the betterment of the community.
“Your ‘yes’ to God requires your ‘no’ to all injustice, to all evil, to all lies, to all oppression and violation of the weak and poor, to all ungodliness, and to all mockery of what is holy. Your ‘yes’ to God requires a ‘no’ to everything that tries to interfere with your serving God alone, even if that is your job, your possessions, your home, or your honor in the world. Belief means decision.” This is according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 1938. Born on February 4, 1906, and died on April 9, 1945, in the Flossenbürg concentration camp, was a Lutheran theologian, a prominent representative of the Confessing Church, and was involved in the German resistance to National Socialism or the NAZI. He was preaching in a time describes as a time of uncertainty for the faithful in a Germany ruled by the NAZIs headed by Adolf Hitler when there were church leaders, pastors and other ministers who favored this norm f a society. Bonhoeffer has to challenge the faithful and the church leaders, the shepherds to continue to choose the right path and to make a decision however risky it will be.
We Filipinos are now in trying times. A time to think a re-think our theology, our pastoral role in the society where the injustices emanate from the center of the governance – from the president himself. The expression of our faith is now challenged by the injustices in our land. Our stance on killings – the anti-drug war with tens of thousands victims, the anti-insurgency campaign through the Whole of Nation Approach led by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) that has also red-tagged thousands of activists and human rights and justice organizations working within the framework of the Philippine Constitution and the internationally accepted norms like the International Humanitarian Law and the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, etc. The laws of the land are weaponized against dissenters that jailed hundreds of people, farmers, indigenous peoples, human rights defenders that includes the people in the altar and the pews now facing with ridiculous fabricated trump-up charges in courts.
Today, we are asked as baptized Christians and as believers of a God we do not see but in each of the persons whom Jesus said is our neighbors to proclaim our faith and to proclaim it loud enough that reached every ear of the tyrants, oppressors, and evildoers. As church leaders – pastors, priests, bishops, deacons, nuns and deaconesses and lay leaders and members of church councils, we are challenged to awaken the people of faith to stand firm and live out our ‘Yes’, to God and to suffer the consequences if necessary in our ‘No’ to injustices in the society today.
Until next for the Transfiguration Sunday.