Gospel Reflection - Mark 12: 28-34 (31st Sunday)
The Gospel today is clear. The most important of all the commandments is to love God above all and to love the neighbor as oneself. Nothing greater than this.
These are not separate. They are one and the same; two sides of the same coin. Not doing one renders the other “fake”. The scribe repeated these words after Jesus said them, more for himself, in order to make sure he understands.
And then he added: “It is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices”.
But there are always temptations to separate them, in different times, in different forms.
People are pious on Sundays. They donate to the Church. But they do something else for the rest of the week. They are the most corrupt of all... not paying their laborers just wages, shouting at their drivers and house helpers, abusing children, paying bribes or signing questionable deals in their offices. Fake Christianity.
They exact decorum on Congress public hearings. But they are the first to shame their “resource persons”. They say they hate drugs and kill small time drug pushers and poor drug addicts. But they are the first to excuse the big time drug imporats that pass through Customs and befriend the drug lords whom they brush elbows with along the corridors of power. Fake Christianity.
Many of these people are Catholics and evangelicals who have been angered when Duterte calls God stupid or makes fun of the faith. But they did not raise a word when he commands to kill people, disrespects women or refuse to respect due process and the basic rights of persons. They are angry when God’s name is blasphemed but clap when drug addicts and the poor are killed. Fake Christianity.
In the name of Christian principles, the Catholics among them marched to Congress when the fetus was being attacked in the Reproductive Health Bill because life is sacred, they said. But they keep quiet when living human beings are brutally killed on the streets with Presidential approval on the war on drugs. The drug addicts’ life is not sacred; they are degenerate animals, so they proclaim. Fake Christianity.
They condemn people who defend the poor and downtrodden. They should not be engaged in politics, they protest. These priests and sisters should only teach morals inside the Church. They should only catechize or baptize children. They should only talk about angels or, maybe about devils, too, but not about the real devils around.They should dedicate their lives to bury the dead and celebrate Masses, yes, but not for the victims of human rights abuses. They should not march against injustice on the streets or say something about it in their homilies. They protest in chorus: that is against the separation of Church and State.
But these people have forgotten that the Constitutional doctrine of the “separation of Church and State” is not about prohibiting people to express their political and religious convictions. On the contrary, it is about the non-establishment of State religion, the non-discrimination of citizens regardless of their religious affiliation, and the State’s assurance for citizens to practice their religious beliefs no matter what. To distort this in order to prop up and ailing regime amounts to fake Christianity.
Loving God means loving the neighbor. These are not two but one. What God has put together, no human should put asunder. Loving the neighbor means fighting for his or her well-being. Working for this well-being is to fight for justice. To fight for justice is to be engaged in politics. Period.
Sr. Patricia Fox, a 71-year old Australian nun who served the poor in the Philippines for 27 years, was charged by the Duterte government of doing political activities in the Philippines. For this she is deported. She needs to leave today.
If to serve the poor is to be “political” then all Christians --foreigner or local -- should be “political”. To refuse to do so is cowardice, an act of fake Christianity.
To profess Christianity is a political act.
Jesus, the man from Nazareth and Christianity's founder, died as a political criminal because he opted for the poor. He once quoted the prophet Hosea who said: “What I want is mercy not sacrifice.” (Mt. 12: 7).
To be holy is in fact to be political.
This is not just my invention. The Synod of Bishops in 1971 already said this: “Action on behalf of just of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of preaching the Gospel.” This means that we are not living and preaching the Gospel at all if we do not work for justice. No ifs, no buts. Christianity pure and simple.
Lord, please deliver us from fake Christians.
Daniel Franklin Pilario. C.M.
St. Vincent School of Theology - Adamson University