“For the partisans, all I can suggest this week is to find time to reflect and to pray.”
This year, as it happens every three years, we celebrate Holy Week in the middle of heated election campaigns to elect national and local officials. 2022 is particularly important for the presidential and vice-presidential elections with the results on May 9 having serious consequences for the country. The Mandanas ruling, which transfers significant resources from the national to the local government unit, makes the local elections more important than usual.
Explaining the liturgy of the Paschal Triduum, Pope Francis once said that “On the evening of Holy Thursday, as we enter the Easter Triduum, we will relive the Mass known as in Coena Domini, that is, the Mass in which we commemorate the Last Supper, there, in that moment. This is the evening when Christ left his disciples the testament of his love in the Eucharist, not as a remembrance, but as a memorial, as his everlasting presence. . . Good Friday is the day of penance, fasting and prayer. Through the texts of the Sacred Scripture and the liturgical prayers, we will gather as though we were on Calvary to commemorate the redemptive Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. . . .”
Watching the graphic images of death and destruction flashed on television/social media committed by Russian troops against innocent Ukrainian civilians, one cannot but be shocked and horrified by how far man can go to inflict pain and suffering upon his fellow human being. Yet, meditating on the suffering of Jesus on the cross, we find solace in the thought that in times of trial and tribulation, there is a caring God who will not abandon his beloved, Jesus sustains us by his grace and grants the strength to remain strong and not give in to despair and hopelessness. Evil may reach the nadir of depravity, but the love of God is infinitely stronger than the worst kind of evil that man can do.
Reflecting on the anxiety and suffering caused by the pandemic, Pope Francis also said that people may now be asking a question about God: What does He do in the face of our pain? Where is He when everything is going wrong? Why doesn’t He solve the problems immediately?” He went on to explain that God revealed Himself completely on the Cross, reminding the faithful not to forget that the Cross is the “chair” of God.
It is not by chance that the final 30 days of this election season starts with Holy Week. Ominous as it may seem, the quiet of mga Mahal na Araw may play a significant role in the 2022 elections.
The imagery of the Stations of the Cross, the traditional pabasa ng pasyon, and the superstitions surrounding the tail end of Lent speaks volumes to the broader Filipino population. What happens during the Holy Week and what comes out of it shall definitely spillover to the remaining 3 weeks of the campaign.
Will campaigns that continue to relentlessly gather support, during this period, be viewed positively by Filipinos? Will campaigns that attack the opposing candidate during a period of repentance turn away people? Will Filipinos instead prefer to use this time to solemnly reflect on their individual and the country’s situation—of how much suffering the country has experienced over the years?
For the partisans, all I can suggest this week is to find time to reflect and to pray. I offer these words of Pope Francis last Sunday for you to mediate on:
“There, as he was being crucified, at the height of his pain, Jesus himself obeyed the most demanding of his commandments: that we love our enemies. Let us think about someone who, in our own lives, injured, offended or disappointed us; someone who made us angry, who did not understand us or who set a bad example. How often we spend time looking back on those who have wronged us. How often we think back and lick the wounds that other people, life itself and history have inflicted on us.
Today, Jesus teaches us not to remain there, but to react, to break the vicious circle of evil and sorrow. To react to the nails in our lives with love, to the buffets of hatred with the embrace of forgiveness. As disciples of Jesus, do we follow the Master or do we follow our own desire to strike back? It is a question we should all ask: do we follow our own desire to strike back?
If we want to test whether we truly belong to Christ, let us look at how we behave toward those who have hurt us. The Lord asks us to respond not as we feel, or as everyone else does, but in the way he acts toward us. He asks us to break out of the mindset that says: “I will love you if you love me; I will be your friend if you are my friend; I will help you if you help me.” Rather, we are to show compassion and mercy to everyone, for God sees a son or a daughter in each person. He does not separate us into good and bad, friends and enemies. We are the ones who do this, and we make God suffer. For him, all of us are his beloved children, children whom he desires to embrace and forgive.”