HomeCommentaryBALIK-TANAW: Radical Waiting and Radical Witnessing

BALIK-TANAW: Radical Waiting and Radical Witnessing

As I write this, I am now on the seventh sojourn of my life as a solitary pilgrim. I began this life after retirement when homelessness was imminent and that’s when I decided to embrace uncertainty. Embrace what is yet to come. 

Embrace what you don’t know. Embrace life as it comes. And that’s when I thought of volunteering for food and a place to lay my head.  And it has been the most meaningful life of retirement one could ever live. A life in solidarity with the poor and marginalized is a life that is so much worth living for.

A life of freedom and a life that gives the best lessons on humility. (As you age, you need more help from people, right?)

Every day is a challenge to learn a lesson on the gospel of love. What should keep me going? What fuel drives this life, but love? And to love even the difficult and unlovable ones. While I try to keep a contemplative/monastic life of prayer, I feel the need to balance this with the life of work.

At this juncture in my senior life, when you feel like anytime you may be hurled six feet under the ground (!), you think of really making each day special and hopefully well-lived. Making little random acts of kindness, smiling and greeting people I meet (because I’d always say, I may not be seeing them again), doing the tasks given to me to the best of my elderly energies!

But never have I been deeper into my reflections than these senior–aged times. Take for instance the acts of waiting and witnessing. I have come to that point where slowing down is a must and is such a gift. Then when I used to be so impatient and wanted to be fast and hurry up things, I’ve finally reached that age when waiting is such a beautiful thing. 

In our First Reading, I was struck by Luke’s writing, “‘wait’ for the promise of the Father”. I imagined the disciples must have been so anxious, when will this be? Are we waiting a long time? A short while?  WAIT. 

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Waiting is coming to grips with patience, perseverance, sad realities, and length of time. There are many things that might happen while we wait. There are many things we do not know. There are many uncertainties and unknowns. And yet a helper, an advocate, the Holy Spirit will be sent to strengthen our hold on this Christian life and become witnesses to this life of following. 

And witness here is not an eyewitness account, but one that bears the marks of being a follower of Jesus. And as the Gospel itself has implied…

“Confirm(ing) the word” and “accompanying signs”, mean becoming living witnesses to the Word of God, a total following as in following Jesus to the end bearing the marks of compassion, mercy, and love; a following what was imperative, to tell everyone of this “good news”; that there is an end to people’s suffering, as communities are formed, created, according to love, according to the Sermon On the Mount the Christian Manifesto, as Dorothy Day (founder of the Catholic Worker Movement) has said.

But in living the life of following Jesus, there are warnings for when you are a peacemaker, merciful, gentle, journey with the grieving, struggle for the good to prevail, and pure in your intentions, your principles pose a challenge to those in the edgy kind of life.  

Your bias for doing good, for those marginalized, your heart for organizing people and opening up their sense of awareness that their human dignity is trampled upon and should be reclaimed is feared. The invitation to rejoice and be glad about this persecution is a blessed assurance that it is what following Jesus is all about. 

Many crucifixion experiences are repeated nowadays. Not in the literal sense of course, but in a more terrifying sense, a powerful control of a nation’s leadership gone mad. The people suffer. Day-to-day living has perennially been a problem.  Finding work (a decent, well-paying job that fits what one has been trained for), keeping that work, struggling to put food on the table; the factory worker, farm worker, occasional worker, that daily wage earner are not experiencing real improvements in their lives as this government has been reporting. According to studies by IBON Foundation, Inc.:

The number of employed persons increased by 572,000 to 49.2 million in March 2024 from 48.6 million in March 2023. There was a decline in the number of unemployed by 416,000 to 2 million from 2.4 million, and the underemployed by 51,000 to 5.39 million from 5.44 million.

However, IBON pointed out that these seemingly “encouraging” figures are alarmingly not being felt as real improvements in the lives of millions of Filipinos.

The poor jobs situation of precarious work and low incomes (Precarious workers are those who fill permanent job needs but are denied permanent employee rights; read more here: https://laborrights.org/issues/precarious-work ) is resulting in worsening hunger and widespread poverty. According to the Social Weather Stations (SWS), Filipino families that experienced involuntary hunger (being hungry and not having anything to eat) at least once in the past three months increased to 14.2% in March 2024 from 12.6% in December 2023. SWS also reported that 46% of Filipino families rated themselves as poor and 33% as borderline poor in March 2024.

Across all regions, the average minimum wage is only Php441 or around one-third (36.5%) of the Php1,208 average family living wage (FLW) for a family of five, as of April 2024. In the NCR, the Php610 nominal minimum wage – the highest nationwide – is just 51.2% of the Php1,192 FLW. Meanwhile, BARMM has the lowest minimum wage nationwide at Php361 which is only 17% of the region’s Php2,069 FLW.

The administration of Mr. Marcos Jr. is hyping some “encouraging trends” and is saying that there is an “improvement” in the labor market despite rising hunger and extensive poverty.  IBON has said that by ignoring the cruel reality of millions and millions of poor Filipinos,  the government is avoiding and not really interested in implementing meaningful measures that could actually improve the people’s welfare. 

IBON Foundation, Inc. is an independent development institution established in 1978 that provides research, education, publications, information work, and advocacy support on socioeconomic issues. Read more at www.ibon.org. 

And the suffering does not stop there. There are suffering women and children whose families have been lost, victims of extra-judicial killings due to the senseless war on drugs that still continues up to this writing; the continued disappearances of human rights workers, and church workers who have been red-tagged; landless farmworkers; the forests as victims of land-use conversion; the continuous rise of prices of basic commodities; the need for socialized health services, an exemplary educational system, and housing for the homeless… 

As a people who have gone through a long history of colonization, suffering, and resilience, we still hope that the crimson-blood-covered-sunset of our story will soon transform into the sunrise of life-giving love. We cling from the resurrection and hope into ascending and living beyond the powers of terror and filth…  

When demons have been driven out, and all good and peace prevail…

When new languages are being spoken where understanding and acceptance of the differences of one another have prevailed…

When serpents can now be touched and held, where the absence of anxiety and fear prevails

When we can drink of any poison because hope and freedom have prevailed

When we can heal the sick love, compassion, mercy, and healing means we are living an abundant life.

The ascension had to happen so that Jesus may return.  The return of Jesus being the radical witnessing of Jesus’ followers when communities are built up from the ground of poverty, healing suffering thru radical compassion and an unconditional love that Jesus has taught and lived.

When we have learned from the suffering of the poor and those pushed to the fringes of society,

When we have recognized the Christ in the poor and the marginalized, 

When the poor and the marginalized can celebrate their freedom from oppressive practices…

Then Jesus has indeed ascended and returned! 

Gospel reflection of Weena Mieley, Association of Women in Theology (AWIT) for the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Balik-Tanaw is a group blog of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR). The Lectionary Gospel reflection is an invitation for meditation, contemplation, and action.

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