[Homily: Luke 9:51-56. Chapel of the Assumption, ADDU, 30 Sept 2014.]
In the Gospel for today, the Samaritans refused to welcome Jesus. The Samaritans believed they could worship Yahweh from their mountain tops. The Jews believed true worship could only be done in the Temple of Jerusalem. The difference in religious belief had caused deep enmity between the Samaritans and the Jews. That is why they were not welcoming Jesus who was on his way to Jerusalem.
Reacting to this apparent insult, Jesus’ disciples ask, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them.” Apparently, differences in religious beliefs always call forth pious aggressiveness and violence. Let “fires from heaven” eliminate those with the temerity to disagree with us who possess the truth on earth
Jesus rebuked them.
His rebuke invites us to reflect on our own experience of violent intolerance in our Church – when we battled the infidel through the Crusades, or when we burned at the stake those who believed in a manner other than we did. Our own experience makes us reflect on the dark ties between arrogance, secular power and religious religious ideology that compels us in the name of the Almighty to fight and maim and kill and bring the “fires of heaven” down on those who believe differently from us.
On the other hand, I think we must also consider when it is that in the name of our religion, or as an imperative of our faith, we have warrant for the struggle that may end in one’s own death, or perhaps in the death of others.
We may think of the images we have currently been seeing on TV of thousands of students and freedom fighters in Hong Kong struggling for meaningful democracy. They want genuine democracy, not a democracy that limits their electoral choice to candidates provided them by Beijing. They want genuine economic freedom, not the economic system that is imposed on them by Beijing. They want genuine religious freedom, not the Marxist-Maoist atheism imposed on them by Beijing. For this thousands of citizens, including retired Bishop Joseph Zen Ze Kuin, are camping on the streets risking their lives.
But how far ought they do this, considering the brutal repressiveness of Beijing? In defense of their freedoms are they really willing to call down fires from heaven to consume their enemies or, in all sobriety, themselves?
Last night, in the new dialogue Center of the Community Center, we had a remarkable Pakighinabi (conversation) session on the ADDU’s participation in opposing the Marcos Martial Law that had brought so much suffering on our people. Sharing for the event were our own alumna, Mags Maglana, and our alumni, Br. Karl Gaspar and Max Tiu, each of whom were jailed in their struggle for freedom. The stories that were shared were moving, especially the stories of those from our own school who had been martyred for the freedoms we not enjoy. Among them: Eduardo “Taking” Lanzona, Nicanor “Nick” Solana, Jr., Magtanggol Roque, Babeth Prudencio-Cajoles, Socorro Par, Evelia Bontia, and Salbador “Bada” Mapansa.
In each of these sacrifices, somewhere the ideals of the Ateneo de Davao and the quiet influence of one or another of the Jesuits were mentioned.
So, when is it that in the name of our religion, or as an imperative of our faith, we have warrant for the struggle that may end in one’s own death, or perhaps in the death of others?
When we are attacked? Or, when our freedoms robbed?
Or when, because of our religion or education, which leads us to truth, we see the disjoint between poverty and the Kingdom of God, or the disjoint between corruption and the Kingdom of God, or the disjoint between superficiality and ignorance and the Kingdom of God, and so must necessarily act in freedom against the disjoint?
When do we act – not in impetuously calling down the fires of heaven on enemies – but in struggling at the side of Christ in his establishment of the Kingdom of God.
His is not the way of guns. His is the way the Cross.