Last December 8, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Francis signaled the beginning of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. On this occasion, the Church will reflect on the mystery of God, rich in mercy and compassion, manifested and brought about in Christ, the Father’s face of mercy, continually at work through the gift of the Holy Spirit. The occasion kicked off with the opening of the Holy Door in the Basilica of St. Peter at the Vatican. Moreover, the Holy Father decreed that “in every local church, at the chosen cathedral a Door of Mercy will be opened for the duration of the Holy Year.” This gesture signifies the recognition of Christ as the sole door through which we enter salvation and the one way that leads to the Father.
It is fitting that the Jubilee of Mercy starts on the advent season. This season is the time to ponder the depth of God’s love and mercy unworthy that we are. As the psalm goes: “What are humans that you are mindful of them, that you care for them? Yet You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.”
But do we deserve this honor?
All around the world, there is war, terrorism, hatred, intolerance, discord, hunger and all other forms of human misery. But we need not go far to see how this culture of lack of charity and hatred is playing out in our midst.
With the elections just around the corner, candidates begin to preoccupy themselves not on how to improve the lot of the people, especially the poor, but on how to destroy their rivals. This is the dirtiest election I have ever seen, the ugliness amplified by social media where everyone has a megaphone.
Mudslinging, threats of violence and calumny are the preferred ways to achieve victory. Only a couple of candidates have discussed platforms of government; we would rather focus on the “dirt” of the candidates and complain about our decaying society. There has even challenges to slapping contests, fistfights, and gun duels. The Comelec, as I have written elsewhere, has committed serious injustice not just to Senator Grace Poe but millions of foundlings, adopted parents and children, OFWs, migrants and global Filipinos.
Sadly, government offices have also not been spared the politics. As a columnist in another newspaper wrote, something illegal is happening at the Bureau of Immigration. As an administrative law professor myself, I can say that the Department of Justice order bypassing the head of the bureau and delegating appointment powers to an associate commissioner is patently unconstitutional and ultra vires. It is also bad governance.
Why would the administration do such a thing to one of their best officials Commissioner Fred Mison? Are they forcing him to resign so that an associate commissioner identified with the Liberal Party will be appointed? Will the Bureau be used for fundraising for the 2016 elections? How sad that they would implicate another good man, Justice Secretary Ben Caguioa, in such an ugly scheme. I support Secretary Caguioa for the Supreme Court seat that will soon be vacated by Justice Martin Villarama. I hope he revokes this illegal order before it taints him.
Even then, Pope Francis’ exhortation to Christians is very telling. He urges Christians to get involved in politics no matter how dirty and frustrating it might be, saying: “None of us can say, ‘I have nothing to do with this, they govern. . . .’ No, no, I am responsible for their governance, and I have to do the best so that they govern well, and I have to do my best by participating in politics according to my ability. Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good. I cannot wash my hands, eh? We all have to give something! […] A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern.”
How do we do this—be non-judgmental, charitable and forgiving? The answer is Jesus Christ, the reason for the season of Christmas. His short three-year stay on earth gives us plenty of lessons to think about. He came into this world in the humblest of circumstances. He had nowhere to lay his head on despite the fact that he created the heavens and the earth. He did not summon his angels to attend to his needs although he is the king of kings. He chose to be born on a manger in the company of animals and a group of poor shepherds in attendance. Through Christ we learn humility even when one occupies an exalted position; even when one has all the power and wealth. In his three years of public ministry, he has also richly demonstrated to us mercy be it a repentant tax collector or prostitute. He has shown charity towards the poor, orphans, children and the weak. And finally, on the cross He taught us to forgive even those who wronged us.
The point is: there can be no mercy without humility; that is, one will fail to recognize the suffering of others if he or she is puffed up with pride and self-importance. There can also be no mercy without charity. There can be no mercy without love, and vice versa. For love without mercy is hypocrisy.
Another, a better, world is possible. The Paris Agreement on climate change has shown us that people of good will can come and work together to overcome our world’s biggest challenge. The life of Justice Florentino Feliciano, who died last week, testified that you can be excellent in everything you do, demand a lot of yourself and others, serve the world and this country while mentoring dozens and even hundreds of others, and be a good husband and father. Justice Feliciano was an exacting man but he cared about this country and the people he worked with like a father to this children. It has been said that when a giant leaves us, the heavens weep. That must be the reason why it rained hard in our islands the week of the good Justice’s leaving.
As we celebrate Christmas in this Jubilee of Mercy, maybe we can remind ourselves that this season is not all about gifts and feasting. Rather, it is all about Christ and on how we live up to his teachings and examples. And that yes, people of good will abound in this country and world.
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