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The Emmaus road to revolution

In a homily years back, the Pope reflected on the gospel account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who failed to recognize the risen Jesus Christ until he “broke bread” with them. He said that the two became “witnesses of the hope that is Christ! Because they met him, the Risen Traveler.” The Pope’s message is clear—“This Jesus, he is the Risen Traveller that journeys with us. And Jesus is here today, he is here among us. He is here in his word, is here on the altar, journeying with us,” “We too can become risen travelers if his word inflames our hearts, and his Eucharist opens our eyes to the faith and nurtures hope and charity in us,” urged the pontiff. 

On the road to Emmaus Jesus urges us to “walk alongside our brothers and sisters who are sad and despairing, and warm their hearts with the gospel, and break with them the bread of fraternity.” Aside from doing acts of charity and love, the Gospel, as the Pope points out, also enjoins us to lead a sacramental life. As the Pope reflects “The road to Emmaus becomes like a symbol of our journey of faith: the Scriptures and the Eucharist are the indispensable elements for the meeting with the Lord.” Like the disciples who were despairing at the death of the Lord, we “often arrive at Sunday Mass with our preoccupations, our difficulties and delusions.” “But the liturgy of the Word welcomes us,” just as Jesus explained the scriptures to the two disciples, “rekindling in our hearts the warmth of faith and hope,” he adds.

More recently, in a Ted talk that has become like viral, not unlike the good news in the early days of Christianity, Pope Francis has called for a revolution of tenderness. He explained such a revolution in this way:

“And what is tenderness? It is the love that comes close and becomes real. It is a movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands. Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future.To listen also to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth. Tenderness means to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need

Tenderness is the language of the young children, of those who need the other. A child’s love for mom and dad grows through their touch, their gaze, their voice, their tenderness. I like it when I hear parents talk to their babies, adapting to the little child, sharing the same level of communication. This is tenderness: Being on the same level as the other. God himself descended into Jesus to be on our level. This is the same path the Good Samaritan took. This is the path that Jesus himself took. He lowered himself, he lived his entire human existence practicing the real, concrete language of love.

Yes, tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other. There is a saying in Argentina: “Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach.” You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness. Through humility and concrete love, on the other hand, power—the highest, the strongest one—becomes a service, a force for good.”

This call to be a different kind of revolutionary has resonated with me and it is this spirit which I hope will guide me in my engagement in public issues. I know I will be criticized in some quarters for this—for always looking for the kinder perspective and a path that might bring people if not together at least to be able to dialogue with each other, for being independent and not taking partisan political positions, for both praising and criticizing both the current as well as previous administrations. More specifically and lately I have been attacked: for not joining the bashing that Presidents Duterte, Arroyo, Estrada, and Vice-President Binay received when a picture of them taken together became viral (the criticism of my refusal to bash them actually proved my point about the blind and selective judgment of those critics); for supporting journalists like Maria Ressa when their words are twisted for political points even as they are only articulating the true and obvious; and, for evaluating the recent Asean summit as a mixed success (in the way the President engaged with his fellow leaders) and failure (the inexplicable surrender to China’s pressure on the language of the joint communique).

I am tempted sometimes to just withdraw from social media as well as writing columns or making myself available to broadcast media. The anger and hate can be paralyzing especially for political topics. It is safer to write or talk about safer issues and pretend there is no difference of opinion among us. For example, my words about Duterte and a potential prosecution at the International Criminal Court have been distorted. I have been criticized for not supporting an ICC case (by anti-Duterte people) while objectively saying that there is a strong possibility that it could move forward (by Duterte supporters). But that in fact is my position. I think that we still have not maximized the domestic mechanisms the Commission on Human Rights, the Ombudsman, and the Judiciary might provide for accountability. In this regard, I support Paula Defensor Knack’s perspective that such a case is premature. At the same time, I have warned our diplomats and government lawyers not to be complacent. This warning does not come from any inside knowledge of the workings of the ICC or any conversations with insiders, but from the many public and academic discussions of this issue among international law experts and academics, and above all from the public statement of the ICC Prosecutor herself months ago. I think in the end we can assume that everyone that is involved here will do their job with diligence and integrity.

Diligence, integrity, rational thinking, fidelity to truth, a belief in human goodness, an understanding that evil does happen and must be fought, above all, kindness—these to me are what I hope to always bring in anything I do in this revolution of tenderness. I am confident that the Risen Traveler will be with this ‘homo viator’ and that always, in persons and events, in my thoughts and feelings, and above all in the Eucharist, I will always recognize the Resurrected Lord. Hopefully, in my words and actions too, I will become an instrument of this affirmation—The Lord is risen! Indeed, He is risen!

Topics: Tony La Vina , Emmaus , Pope , gospel
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