On the second Sunday of Lent, the Gospel narrates that on a mountain, in the presence of just three of Jesus’ disciples—Peter, James and John, Jesus was transfigured. As they awake, Peter and the disciples see Jesus face shining and his clothes dazzle in great light and Elijah and Moses present with Jesus. Upon seeing the spectacular event, Peter tells Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
In the Transfiguration, Jesus displays his full glory and splendor; it is a foreshadowing and a preview of the glory of his resurrection. The momentary vision is shown to the disciples to prepare and strengthen them to the upcoming trials to their faith, which the suffering and crucifixion of their Master will bring them. The disciples, being all too human, will see their faith severely tested in the coming passion and death of their master. But thankfully the story does not end there.
The Transfiguration reminds us that being a disciple of Christ is no walk in the park. Walking the way, following a faith itinerary, is littered with trials and temptations constantly casting doubt on our faith in God. Yet, being a disciple is to recognize that while God may be invisible at the moment, his magnificence will eventually come out from the shadows and light our path to salvation.
Lately, I was struck by the testimony of Lascañas and before him Matobato. They narrated how they committed murders, killings and other forms of barbarity to serve the wishes of then mayor and now President Duterte. And then they converted and saw the light.
According to Lascañas, he wants to make a clean breast of all the evil deeds he had done. Like Matobato, he is putting himself and his family in grave peril with such testimony. By going against Duterte, his erstwhile benefactor who gives him the money for his dialysis, Lascañas is in effect shortening his life. This defies logic and can only be explained by the notion of personal conversion: Christ penetrating a human soul suffused with darkness; in his unfathomable mercy, our Messiah enlightens, converts, and redeems the blackest of hearts.
This is the saving power of Christ, as manifested in his Transfiguration, Passion and Death, and Resurrection. Conversion is available to even the vilest of sinners; nobody is beyond redemption. And yes, as Senator Trillanes has so rightly emphasized, conversion does not make the sinner necessarily a saint who will sin no more. In fact, saints continue to sin until their deaths, although what makes them saints is they consistently seek and experience the mercy of our Lord.
Our nation urgently needs transformation. Look at the lies and the hatred that has been unleashed against Vice President Leni Robredo and her late husband Jesse Robredo by a cowardly group that hides behind a pseudonym. Even President Duterte, whom the group say they support, has condemned their writing as garbage not worth spending his time on.
Vice President Leni is an extraordinary woman, exemplary in competence, a visionary on social justice and inclusive development, and a woman of unquestionable integrity. She is someone I would want in a foxhole with me during a battle or a crisis. She is completely trustworthy and dependable.
Jesse Robredo’s record is impeccable, not perfect for sure because he was a politician who balanced several interests all the time. But he was a leader for all seasons. He will never be forgotten and he will not be killed a second time no matter the lies that are being told about him by evil people.
I say this as someone who did not support VP Robredo’s candidacy as I was active in the Poe-Escudero campaign. While it was tempting to campaign for a mixed ticket, it was important for me as a professional and to be able to act with integrity to be loyal to the tandem I was identified with. Personally, I liked Senator Chiz and though he would make a good vice president as well as president.
I was also uncomfortable with VP Robredo’s vocal opposition to many of Duterte’s decisions. Saying once or twice her dissent on extrajudicial killings, the Marcos burial, and the De Lima persecution was fine but repeating them constantly seemed unprofessional as a Cabinet member. I also wanted her to stay in the administration until nearer the 2022 elections.
In any case, even with these differences, I gladly defend Leni from her critics whose sole agenda is to destroy her political future to benefit her main opponent in the last elections. They are doing wrong not just to Leni or Jesse, or the Robredo children, but to the country. They must be opposed, not by suppressing their voices, but by confronting lies with truth, by not yielding any ground to trolls and other haters.
Take the case also of the opposition against Secretary Gina Lopez in the Commission on Appointments. There are legitimate issues regarding some of her recent decisions, but many of the attacks against Lopez has been personal, vicious, irrational, and unfair. Fortunately, like Leni, Gina has not lost her composure and has remained committed to her primary mission to protect people and planet.
Personally, I would want a Gina Lopez that were more consensus-seeking. I would like her to make better use of the career people in her department; most are competent and not corrupt. The environmental and mining communities can find a common ground. But the way forward is not a rejection of Lopez by the CA, the outcome of which is the escalation of what is already a civil war, so far nonviolent but at the community level can easily become bloody, between miners and environmentalists.
Finally, we just had the death penalty vote in the House of Representatives, one of the most wicked acts a legislature can do. How could our representatives bring us backwards, ignore the fact that its mainly the poor that suffers death penalty, that such penalty has no deterrence value, and that it violates both international law and universal ethical norms?
While I do not judge individual legislators on this single vote, it pains me though to hear the reasoning behind the decisions made by those who voted yes. Their motivations, as exemplified by the explanation of Rep. Geraldine Roman, are mainly political, a calculation that disregards personal conscience, as well as the moral aspects and human costs of their vote.
Our country needs conversion. The only way this can happen is if we, as individuals, convert. This Lenten season, let’s ponder on what we need to all do so that transformation of self and nation can happen. The Transfiguration of Christ signals that not all is lost. Like Peter, James, and John, we might be confused now but we will see the light with the Cross and the Resurrection. Every day in Lent, it would serve us all well if we pray, even shout out with passion this beautiful antiphon: “Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.”
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