Up till now, we see many posts on various platforms by the ‘newly awakened RADICALIZED Filipinos’ who believe in Leni Robredo‘s ‘radical love’.
Phenomenal is the only word that can describe the hundreds of thousands who gathered for hours just to listen and give support and be part of a movement characterized by reaching out to those with less in life visible in the ‘pink’ colored paraphernalia during the last campaign period.
Unparalleled in the history of the country was not only the quantity who came to rallies, lined up the streets and let their presence be felt through social media, but in the volunteerism that characterized the deliberate sharing of resources of time, talent and treasures.
In a developing country like the Philippines to dig into one’s pocket to provide for campaign materials, both home-made and commercially-produced, original and copied without expecting any return or gain is something not to be scoffed at.
And yet, the reality (with cheating factored in) that the 14 million plus votes is much much smaller compared to the 30 plus million votes is still the truth that must be grappled with. And this truth compels the minority that they are indeed the smaller group.
Four months after, today, many, religious and lay church leaders not excluded, who felt disenchanted, disillusioned, and saddened by what they felt as a kind of betrayal by the people they thought they were fighting for, are still finding it difficult to bounce back to hope’s zone. Stories of unbelief and active paralysis of people close to our hearts in families and in close circles of friends are familiar. We just recently attended a ‘bouncing back’, by way of a webinar, on peace. There may be other ways that could trigger the moving on without abandoning what has been started.
We believe in St. Therese, the little flower’s conviction that “all is grace.” Whether we win or lose in whatever battle we find ourselves in, all is grace.
Let us start with the story of Gideon. Gideon, also known as Jerubbaal and Jerubbesheth who was a military leader, a judge and a prophet whose triumph over the Midianites is recorded in the Book of Judges. During his time the Israelites were oppressed by the Midianites, invading their country, ruining all their crops, not sparing any living thing for the Israelites to eat. Midian was so powerful that they impoverished the Israelites and the Israelites were forced to build their shelters in caves, mountain clefts and strongholds.
Hearing the cry for help by the Israelites the Lord sent them Gideon, a prophet. “Go in the strength that you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.“ Gideon was commissioned.
To prepare to fight the mighty power of the Midianites, Gideon had to trim down his army from 22,000 to 300 men upon the Lord’s instruction so that Gideon would not say, “My own strength has saved me.” Upon hearing the sound of trumpets and seeing burning torches of the 300 men positioned around the camp, the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled. Gideon, whose clan was the weakest in Manasseh and he as the youngest, the least in the family, a minority in all points of view, won over the Midianites whose men and camels were so numerous it was impossible to count them. The Midianites destroyed themselves.
Then there is the story of Moses, a popular story which tells how he left a position of power, as the son of the Pharaoh’s daughter. It is said that he stuttered, a speech defect. Yet assuming the position of a slave by siding with his fellow Israelites and soliciting the help of his brother Aaron, to be his spokesman, he was able to lead his people and liberated them from slavery. From a position of a minority and a disposition of inferiority, he triumphed over the powerful in authority.
Of course Gideon and Moses were assured of the help of our Lord and both Gideon and Moses responded to the call of the Lord even if the odds were against them.
The bible abound with stories about how Jesus alludes to the force of the frail, the wisdom of the unwise, the strength of the weak, and the value of the small, the lesser, the marginalized, the ostracized, the shunned and the ignored.
Judith, a frail but beautiful and wise widow overpowers a military commander. According to the story, upon being deceived by false stories of Holofernes, a military commander, King Nebuchadnezzar ordered Holofernes on a punitive mission to the Israelites. Knowing from their elders that they were waiting for God to act before responding to the threat of the Assyrians and if God did not act, the elders of the Israelites would hand over the city to the Assyrians, Judith decided to act. Being beautiful and attractive, Judith was Invited into the tent of Holofernes. She tells him that he would be victorious, then while he lay in drunken sleep, she cuts off his head. The leaderless Assyrian forces failed and victory was attained by the Jews. (Book of Judith)
Esther, is another female who saved her people from annihilation. Esther was the beautiful wife of the Persian king Ahasuerus (Xerxes I), who was unaware that she was of Jewish descent. The king’s chief minister, Haman, plotted to massacre the Jews throughout the empire. She was only one, a minority thus Haman won by obtaining the majority by casting lots. This convinced the king to sign the decree of annihilation. With her cousin Mordacai, Esther was able to persuade the king to retract the order against the Jews. Finding herself in a position to rescue her people, she intervened, putting her life at risk. A courageous woman triumphs over a scheming chief minister. (Book of Esther)
God’s deliverance of the Jewish people was accomplished through the minority, and through the hands of women, at that time considered a minority and of lesser worth than males.
Sts. Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena, both succeeded in introducing reforms, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Francis of Assisi, both driven by an extraordinary and a revolutionary kind of love, all of which were uncommon and unpopular during their time, were the minority and yet they exceeded their own expectations. All considered themselves as broken clay vessels, imperfect damaged pots. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted by not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed, always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.“ (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)
He could have healed all of the sick in the big crowds (Luke 14:25) that followed Him, but
Jesus persisted in the use of small numbers. He started with just 12 apostles, He focused on just one Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-26), one hemorrhaging woman (Luke 8:43-48) one pardoned sinful woman, (Luke 7:36-50) one adulterous woman (John 8:1-11), one leper, Naaman (2Kings 5) who was convinced by his servants to follow Elisha’s instructions to wash himself 7 times in the river Jordan, the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13), Jairus’ dead daughter (Mark 5: 41-43).
Jesus referred to his students ‘little flock’, ‘ gentle lambs’, ‘meek sheep’. Jesus spoke of 2 small coins, 1 lost sheep, 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish, a widow’s mite.
Without having to increase its numbers, the Church triumphs because injustice is doomed to fail.
It was clearly shown at the May elections who got the smaller votes. But results can be obtained when the work of the hands are abandoned completely to the Lord. And just as Jesus chose not the scholars of His time but ordinary folks like us, we too can be chosen to be instruments to do His work on earth.
In St. Teresa of Jesus’ words: “Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which He looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which He blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are His body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
The enigma of the power of the small, the weak and the minority as instruments of God’s work, can be fathomed only if we look at how Jesus lived in history.
Edita Burgos is a doctor of education and a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. Gunmen — believed to be soldiers — abducted her son Jonas Burgos in Manila in April 2007. He is still missing. She was general manager of the publications WE Forum and Malaya.