In our taping of the episode of our Sunday Gospel talk show, “Men of Light,” for Palm Sunday, my co-host, Father Deo Galang called our attention to what he called the “little acts of kindness” on the way to Golgotha.
I realized, while listening to him, that evil is indeed so loud, it has a way of calling attention only to itself so that you don’t get to see or even notice the little acts of goodness along the way.
What you hear instead are the loud cries of the detractors who shout in unison, “Crucify him!” You get to see only the glaring sight of a man who is betrayed by one of his close friends, mocked by the soldiers, accused falsely by paid witnesses, condemned to a death penalty by the Sanhedrin for blasphemy, ridiculed by Pontius Pilate, made into a spectacle by a crowd of kibitzers.
All these loud voices are employed well by Satan. He has a way of amplifying them, making them so noisy, you fail to see the little acts of kindness, you fail to hear the little whispers of goodness along the way.
There is the woman, for instance, who silently anoints him with an alabaster jar of precious oil. There is the man who quietly offers him an upper room for his last supper. I wonder if he was the same man who had earlier allowed Jesus to ride on his donkey at the triumphant entry to Jerusalem. There is Simon of Cyrene who helps Jesus carry his cross to Calvary. There is a nameless person who offers him a drink. There is the centurion who whispers to himself, “Truly, this man was the son of God.”
I am inclined to think that this was the same centurion who had touched the heart of Jesus because he had gone out of his way to ask Jesus to heal his slave. (That was unusual in those times when slaves could simply be replaced when they did not function well.) I imagine this centurion looking up at Jesus on the cross, feeling ashamed that he could not return the favor, only to be given a smile that enabled him to hear in his heart a reassuring message, “What you did for your lowly servant you already did for me.”
The drama of a good man being abandoned by his very core group, who were just saying the night before that they were willing to die for him, is so frustrating that you fail to notice the women who quietly stood at the foot of the cross.
St. Luke adds one criminal hanging next to Jesus who said a kind word in defense of Jesus and begged only to be remembered in his kingdom. And there is the silent courage of Joseph of Arimathea, who dared to ask for the body of Jesus from Pilate himself so he could give Jesus a decent burial in a tomb that belonged to his family.
John also adds one more silent character named Nicodemus who used to hide and visit Jesus only in the dead of night because of the possible consequence of being associated with this carpenter from Galilee. Now, he too could stand his ground and admit publicly that he was a disciple, bringing myrrh and spices for Jesus’ burial.
You see, it is no different in our own day and age. Evil remains loud, boisterous, and even aggressive. It has a way of making its voice dominate the broadcast and the social media with sound bites and images. It has a way of calling attention to itself, deliberately shocking our sensibilities with cuss words and expletives that we normally would not hear in ordinary circumstances.
It tends to drown the little acts of goodness of the silent nurses in the ICUs who, even at the risk of getting themselves and their own families infected, bravely attend to the sick and dying patients, assure them that they are not alone.
They who do the extra kindness of putting their own phones on a loudspeaker to get the voices of the families heard by the struggling patients. They who would sometimes do what is not expected of health workers, like even praying over their patients, especially when the suctioning and the proning and the ventilators just don’t work anymore.
We fail to see the little gestures of kindness of ordinary people who share their food, of employers who refuse to lay off their workers even if it would mean huge financial losses, of the scientists who are burning the midnight oil trying desperately to study the behavior of this vicious virus and its mutations, of the microbiologists who come up with vaccines, even if they know that it is the pharmaceutical companies that will benefit financially from all their hard work anyway.
We hardly notice the laboratory technicians who go through all the risks themselves to be able to do the testings and deliver test results, and those who take advantage of every opportunity to support infected patients, to allay their fears, to encourage them, to offer them prayers, to send them food, anything to make them feel they are not alone.
Today our churches are silent and empty and priests have to bear the pain of celebrating without a congregation. Our silent prayers are often drowned by the loud blaring of the sirens of ambulances that are transporting more patients to quarantine facilities and hospitals that are already full or beyond capacity.
The tired, hungry, and sick doctors and health workers will hardly be noticed, as TV programs and talk shows will air out the loud voices of candidates who are already shamelessly aspiring for political positions and flooding our barangays with campaign materials and posters even as we are struggling to survive this pandemic.
You see, nothing much has changed since 2,000 years ago. Evil is still following the same strategy of trying to intimidate, outshine, outvoice, saturate, possess and overpower. But neither will goodness change its ways. It will continue to fight quietly its spiritual battle, on the side of the God who strips himself of power, the God who empties himself of might and glory and embraces the cross of love as the only way, the only bridge to the new and eternal Jerusalem.
He will not capitulate to the ways of the great pretender and deceiver who bullies his way around, always tries to prove his worth and asserts his godlikeness by building his tower of Babel and asserting that might is right.
The Messiah comes, not as a knight in shining armor or as a flying superman. Rather, he takes the form of a lowly servant. Why? The prophet says, in our first reading, because none of the torture and humiliation can strip him of his dignity; none of the shaming can smear his divinity.
Today, we are invited to walk humbly with this selfless, self-sacrificing God who loves us unconditionally. We fight our battle on the side of this quiet and self-effacing servant-leader who looks every bit forsaken and defeated.
We bend our knees before this God who stubbornly tries to save even the worst sinners, who goes down to hell for them, who offers himself as the lamb for the sacrifice, who allows his blood to be sprinkled on the doorposts of societies so that evil, in all its loudness will not have the last say. He will not allow evil to penetrate our homes and sanctuaries. He will not surrender until we all have passed over into the great beyond, until evil is vanquished forever.
The is the homily of Bishop Pablo Virgilio David for Palm Sunday, 28 March 2021, Is. 50,4-7; Phil 2, 6-11; Mk 14:1-15:47