EASTER SUNDAY REFLECTION
For more than a year now, we have been journeying with the mothers, orphans and widows of the victims of the war on drugs in Payatas. By our rough estimate, there are around 100 victims who were killed in our little parish around the dumpsite. But usually after the funeral, the families leave the place and settle somewhere else hoping to delete the event in their memories. The intended chilling effect on people is so great that neighbors do not speak about them as soon as the corpses are removed from the crime site, do not go to their wakes, live life as if nothing happened, and the families are left to grieve in silence.
One could never imagine how painful it would be to grieve alone. At least in wakes, you can have the chance to vindicate your loved one in front of others: to tell your neighbors that he was a good husband, that he cared for his children, that he did not sell drugs, that they should not have shot him and so on. All these words could not be said because there is no one there. Not even those who come to the wake just to play cards, of whose “tong” can help augment a little bit the funeral expenses. They were nowhere to be found. Not even the usual community prayer leaders who could have said some consoling prayers the grieving family could not utter at this time. For the victims’ families, everybody believed in the government script reinforced each day by the dominant media and a million trolls: that their loved one is a criminal; that he is guilty; it is but right that he be killed. And there is no space in the world to vindicate him.
I went to many of these wakes. There is one thing I noticed in all: there are small chicks on the coffin, eating the grains that they placed on them. I asked what this means. They answered: “As the chicks eat the grains, their beaks also strike at the consciences of those who killed him. The murderers could not have peace of mind. God will haunt them. God shall deliver his justice.”
As I listened, I thought to myself, the victims – all of them very poor – really have nowhere to go in order to seek for justice. The policemen who are supposed to protect them are killing them. Going to the courts is not a realistic option. Aside from having no resources, the wheels of justice in this twisted administration are not on their side. The Church and its leaders are also strangely quite; most of them act as if nothing happened.
The poor have really nothing. They only have the chicks – and their prayer for some “poetic justice” that God will soon vindicate them.
As I celebrate Easter today, I think of these victims. I feel for those mothers, orphans and widows. I have heard their cries. They all want justice. They ask God to vindicate them. In the meantime, however, they can only suffer in silence.
Then, we hear the readings proclaimed today: “Jesus is alive. God has raised him.” This is the first confession of faith.
The first preachers emboldened by their Pentecost experience did not talk about the “resurrection” right away. They spoke about Jesus being “justified”, being “glorified”, being “raised by God”. Or, maybe, resurrection means precisely this: being vindicated and justified.
One thing is clear. Jesus did not raise himself up. He is alive because of the creative powers of God. He was not on auto-resurrection mode. He did not crawl out of the grave by himself, left his linens and walked out just liked that for the world to see. When the body was not in the tomb, Mary Magdalene even thought that someone stole him because the last time she knew, he was lying there dead, totally dead.
But beyond all expectations, God has vindicated Jesus and done him justice. God raised him up, justified him. As if to tell the world that he was not what they thought he was. That he was not guilty of the crime they attributed to him. “He whom you have killed by hanging him on a tree, God exalted him on his right hand” (Acts 5: 30 -31).
As I light my candle today from the Paschal candle of the Risen Christ, I pray for the victims: that God will also raise them, vindicate them, glorify them. As I watched the chicks again on their coffins, I also listen to the prayers of the mothers, orphans and widows, and ask God to intervene.
In every Mass that we celebrated, in every shared reflection we did, in every tear that fell from their scarred faces, they echo the prayer of the Suffering Servant in the Old Testament who said:
“The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near”(Isaiah 50: 7-8).
Jesus is alive. God has vindicated him. This is an Easter proclamation about a decisive Christian event that happened more than 2000 years ago.
But this is also a fervent prayer and ardent longing that the God who vindicated Jesus may come to vindicate them and all those who suffer around us.
Daniel Franklin Pilario, C.M.
St. Vincent School of Theology