Luke 1:1-21, Third Sunday of Ordinary Time
A friend of mine is a guidance counsellor for grade school students in one of the schools in Manila. Two years ago, he told a very shocking story. “One of our students just attempted suicide, Father. 10 years old. He actually jumped off the building. But someone caught him just in time and saved him.” 10 years old, imagine. Suicide. His mom and dad were separated, so the kid saw his mom only sporadically. But his dad wasn’t very much around either because, well, he was running a huge business around the country. My friend said that the kid went home every day to a very expensive high-rise and well-stocked condominium in the city. The driver took him to and from school each day, at the end of which he came home to his yayas and his pet dog, and all the toys and gadgets at his bidding. When my friend finished the story, I said to myself, “Haay, not all the money in the world…not all the money in the world….” When a child like that is caught in straits dire enough to push him over the edge, only someone with a heart of stone would blame it on the child. Because to someone clear-minded and with basic intelligence, the moral, familial, psychological, social responsibility behind an attempted suicide of a 10-year-old lies in the grownups, not on the 10-year-old.
When Jesus read that mortal passage in Isaiah – and I say “mortal” because it almost cost him his life—Isaiah’s words turned into something that Jesus promised and a responsibility that Jesus placed upon his own shoulders. You could almost hear the Lord say: “Ang Espiritu po ng Diyos ang nagbungsod sa kin na tuparin ko ang salita ng Diyos: na paligayahin ko ang mgadukkha, tubusin ang nabibihag, liwanagang muli ang nabubulag, palayain ang mga bilanggo. This passage,” he said, “is fulfilled in your hearing. Tinutupad ko na po ang pangakoko. Pinaninindigan ko po ang responsibilidad na inihabilin sa akin. Pinangangatawanan ko na po ang pananagutan ko sa mga tao.” He promised to make Isaiah’s words come true and he took upon himself the responsibility to make them come true—for the sake of the poor, the captives, the blind, and the prisoners. Promise and responsibility. Pangako at pananagutan.
Sa amin pong magkakaibigang Heswita, may tawag pokaming pabiro sa hindi gumaganap sa kanyang responsibilidad, bagkus ay ipinapasa pa ito sa ibang tao: pasa-load. Nagpapasang responsibilidad. Pasa-load happens to all communities, doesn’t it? It happens in seminaries, in schools, in families. The parents of the 10-year-old who attempted to jump to his death, I consider pasa-load. “We’ll take care of earning the money, and give him everything he asks for. But you, his teachers, you, his school—you take care of the rest. Just send us the bill.” Pasa-load. It happens a lot to many families of deaf children. The parents send the deaf child to learn sign language. But no one else in the family cares to learn it. So, the poor deaf child ends up feeling like a stranger in his own family, all his life. It happens in schools, too. “Class, kung hindi n’yo maintindihanang lesson na ito, tanong n’yo na lang sa tutor n’yo.”
But these days, this pasa-load virus has yet again infected our country: “Ibaba natin ang criminal responsibility from 15 years old to 9. Ilagay na lang ang mga batang ‘yan sa Bahay Aruga. Sila na bahala d’on. Tapos ang problema natin sakonggreso’t senado.” A person in his right mind, with his heart in the right place, will know that when children age 9 or 10 or even 11 or 12…when young children become drug runners, snatchers, rugby-sniffers—it’s because a whole other bunch of people, grownups, did not deliver on their promises and responsibilities, but instead, pasa-load. That children deliver drugs under duress, or steal, or sniff solvents, even rape!—is only a symptom of the more serious cancer festering all this time—the failure of national governance to “bring glad tidings to the poor.” How? To ransom the captives from poverty, to give “sight to the blind” by funding education for all, by freeing the oppressed through honest litigation, giving a fair shake to the poor in the courts of law, disciplining the police force and para-military. Just as we believe that the behavior and misbehavior of children reflect the kind of people their parents are, the same is true for a country. Tell me what poor Filipino children become because of poverty, and I’ll tell you what kind of politicians we voted for. Nagkakaganyan po ang mga bata dahil subsob sila sakarukhaan.
Gawa po kaya ako ng meme. It would be a split-screen. On the left, a picture of street-children in a police station, covering their faces with their dirty sandos. On the right, a picture of smiling, barong-clad, clean-shaven politicians who were once-upon-a-time arrested for corruption, but are now back in circulation. Under the picture of the children, maybe I’d write: Nagnakaw nang dahil sa karukhaan: preso. Under the picture of the politicians, I’d go: Nagnakaw sa bayan kahit ubod na ng yaman: laya.