Before I joined the seminary formation, I have lived, grown up and worked with subsistence farmers and fisherfolks as a young boy with my parents and younger siblings. I know what their stories are, how they pray and hope, how they loved their families, how they toil and work to the end of their lives.
On the one hand, they are also the people who can wait, who can leave it up to God for the morrow. In faith, they watch and hope as “the land yields its fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.”
But on the other hand, they are the most industrious lot – one who do not stop working just to bring food to their tables, even if the rain does not come for their crops to bear fruit, even if the stormy sea does not yield some catch.
They do not cease to hope and pray. But they do not cease to work and toil. This is one circle of life, no dichotomy, no preference, no surrendering of one pole to the other. Life is both one and the other.
The everyday lives of people erase the dichotomy and blur the boundaries set by the theoretical concerns of the academe and others of their kind. Life on the rough ground is a mixture of everything – activism and contemplation, praxis and theory, prayer and action – one in all, all in one.
We can then understand what the Gospel tells us.
One the one hand, a man works the whole day – to plow the land, to scatter the seed, to take out the weeds, to take care of it until harvest time. On the other hand, he can sleep soundly at night because he knows that Someone greater than him takes charge as it grows in ways he does not know how. “Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”
Many are discouraged with what is happening to our country today. Almost twenty three thousand were killed and not one murder is solved. The government in not interested in solving them. Just the opposite, it has spent all its resources to defend the war on drugs which kills them. More than a thousand mothers and wives are widowed; more than thousand children are orphaned and without support because their breadwinners were killed. What future can they imagine?
Violence now is the new normal, the new rule of the game – in words and in deed. “I will you kill you”: One can hear it in Presidential speeches, copied as they are by local officials – and worst, by little children as they mimic us. And the next day, one hears on TV – a priest was killed in his chapel, an unknown someone was dumped somewhere, tambays are incarcerated and found dead the next day. The people are made to weep without let up, without end.
Some apologists of this administration tell me to look at the greater picture – that some things have changed like Boracay or whatever. But no “greater picture” can justify one single life lost, even if it is just one single life. No person is expendable. No human being can be a collateral damage. The philosopher Immanuel Kant already said it long time ago: “Always treat people as ends in themselves, not as means to an end.” But the prophet Jesus said the same thing much earlier: “Sabbath is made for human beings, not human beings for the Sabbath.”
Yet 80% of us still continue to applaud, still continue to laugh when the President talks about killing or denigrates women. That is what is most sad and frustrating.
In these moments, I want to remember the poor farmers. Even as they work hard, they trust that something will happen slowly, slowly, slowly – first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain” – in mysterious ways, in a manner which God only knows. Like the farmers and fisherfolks, we wait, we trust, we hope.
But like them, we also need to work. Regardless of what people say, I write about the killings even if my friends tell me to keep quiet and just let things be. “Also for your security,” they added with an expression of concern. I share about the experiences of their widows in forums even if many people maybe do not believe. We continue to take care of the orphans so that they can continue to imagine a different world away from the pain and violence they have experienced.
Some people tell me that as a priest I should not deal with politics. But if to defend the poor and the victims is to be political, then let me be political. Who cares?
In the end, like the farmer, I can also trust that something happens - slowly, imperceptively and in some mysterious ways - that the people will wake up, refuse to be cowed by fear, and rise up to claim their own well-being and liberation. For the Lord hears the cry of the poor.
St. Vincent School of Theology - Adamson University