HomeCommentaryBALIK-TANAW: Making society whole again – Justice and Peace work is healing work

BALIK-TANAW: Making society whole again – Justice and Peace work is healing work

I love quiet times. Perhaps it is the best sign of my “coming of aging”, or perhaps it is just the way I am loving that moment when I transitioned into 60 years.  No fanfare, no special 60th party. I was alone. But it was not a lonely moment. If I am affected by comparisons to other people who have celebrated their 60th with fireworks and expensive staycations, I would have been the loneliest. One of my friends even told me, seriously, “You are like an outcast!”  But sure enough it was the most intimate of my celebrations ever.  In the quiet and stillness of that day, God’s love became real. It was a miracle.  It was a healing moment. 

Which brings me to the story of women in Bible times. How lonely most of them must have been. They were considered outcasts at the time of Jesus. It was unfortunate to have a daughter.  When a woman’s husband dies, it is their custom to marry the brother of her husband or be dependent on her children. Adulterous women, prostituted women, and women bearing children out of marriage were no-name-women, with no identity. Or else, a woman is often identified by her father, her husband,  or any patriarch of the household. A woman should never be seen walking alone, a woman should marry and care for a husband, a woman should have children, and when having her monthly period, women were to stay in a hut far from the family household. In other words, she was considered unclean, defiled, and sullied.  Hence, our unnamed hemorrhaging woman must have had some great amount of courage even just to touch the clothes of Jesus!  And she believed she would be made whole again.

This is certainly one of those miracles where Jesus must have had people raise their eyebrows and caused a lot of stir.  His clothes were touched by a woman!  But I’d like to look at this encounter of Jesus and the woman from another perspective and to see it through another lens. Before this woman was healed physically, of her ailment, she should have mustered enough courage to go and see Jesus to the point of touching his cloak.  Some important symbols come to mind here too.  The non-identity of the woman is also strongly linked to her condition. Having been hemorrhaging for years is enough reason to be cast out from society and assigned to the margins or the “hem of the cloak of society”. I would like to believe that the symbol of Jesus’ cloak or clothes, is a literary device to prove to the reader that this woman must have been pushed to the margins of society at that time. The obvious insertion of the story positioned between Jesus’ being asked to heal Jairus’ daughter, and Jesus’ actual visit to the home of this important person, proves also to be a literary device for the reader. The writer wishes the reader to know that insertion may be some form to heighten Jesus’ performing miracles as he preached along the way.

Here is my take on this. Jesus made sure that our love for the poor is an authentic love. Jesus operated on mercy and compassion and saw a deeper need in the person.  While giving to the poor is wise and helpful, getting into the deeper need is wiser.  Where obstacles to justice are removed, that things prevent justice from operate be questioned and those that harm justice are resisted, along our synodal journey, we are called as Jesus’ followers to work for the restoration of peace and justice in a society marked by a miserable poverty of charity.   Jesus’ healing ministry is an act of resistance to the oppressive forces of his time.  Healing work is justice and peace work.

For many reasons, working towards justice is always impeded. And those causing this are obviously the ones parading their might in the corridors of power. The history of the Philippines is replete with oppressive colonial forces and politicos who have accumulated a questionable amount of wealth that have enforced the continued suffering of the poor.  The situation of millions of families in the Philippines still suffering from unbelievable misery, is indeed fertile ground for healing work.  Looking at the downtrodden economy of this country makes one cringe.  

“Workers and their families struggle with poverty wages and need an immediate large wage increase to bring immediate relief from the rising cost of goods and services. In the NCR, the Php610 minimum wage is only half (51%) of the Php1,197 FLW(Family Living Wage) for a family of five as of May 2024. Computed for a 5-day work week, the minimum wage translates into some Php14,373 monthly in take-home pay over a year which is 8.5% less than the Php15,587 poverty line for a family of five.”

 (IBON Foundation, 24 June 2024; read more:www.ibon.org)

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IBON further said that employers can increase the FLW since their profits according to numbers can accommodate a meaningful wage increase. “NCR establishments have more than enough profits to give a large minimum wage hike. Compensation is just 14% of expenses across NCR establishments of all sizes in all sectors, according to the latest Annual Survey of Philippine Business and Industry (ASPBI) for 2021. Assuming that one-half (50%) of the employed are at minimum wage or below, IBON for instance computes that a Php150 minimum wage hike is equivalent to just 4% of profits. Employers can give this tiny share of profits to workers without raising prices, causing inflation, and undertaking layoffs.”

“The Marcos Jr administration should not just pay lip service to raising the minimum wage or even give just a token amount to appease labor groups’ clamor. This would be a disservice to millions of Filipino workers who genuinely need a substantial wage hike and who have yet to be justly compensated for their labor. ###”

(IBON Foundation, 24 June 2024; read more:www.ibon.org)

The Philippine situation has been hemorrhaging for the longest period of time now. The crisis in food security, health, and housing, the educational system, the crisis in the West Philippine Sea, the POGO issue, the extra-judicial killings, the disappearances of peasants, organizers, church workers, and human rights workers, and others, are all signs of a society suffering from a chronic illness that bleeds its people to the point of death.

Our genuine hope is to live life to the fullest, because as it is said in the First Reading today,  

“God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.
For he fashioned all things that they might have being;
and the creatures of the world are wholesome.”  And we as part of Creation, are to work for the restoration to wholeness of all creatures.  A restoration to wholeness of our dis-eased society. So that we may have being, and have life to the fullest.  So that we may genuinely sing and pray…

You changed my mourning into dancing;
O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.
I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.

I move to a quiet place in the surroundings where I am, for now. This itinerant life I live.  I reflect on how we continue to work for authentic charity.  With Jesus, we reject all impediments to our work for justice and peace, and we resist all forms of oppressive forces. We continue to serve the people! 

Gospel reflection of Weena Salvador Meily, Association of Women in Theology (AWIT) for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

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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