August 25, 2019
Someone asked him (Jesus), “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter by the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”
— Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Luke, 13:23-24
Before anything else, a plug for the “Genuine Love” documentary on the late Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez at 10.45 a.m. and 9 p.m. today on ABS-CBN. Don’t miss it.
Amid the outrage over the possibility of rapist-murderer Antonio Sanchez being paroled, the widespread adulation for Lopez seems providential, with both lives exemplifying in media our Lord’s Gospel message at Sunday Mass today: To be saved, enter by the narrow gate.
No prizes for guessing which of these two personages followed Jesus’s teaching. Yet, despite the widespread anger over Sanchez’s fearful crimes and feared release, in fact, most people probably follow the wider entrance of pleasure-seeking, power-grabbing and getting ahead taken by the once-entrenched Calauan, Laguna mayor.
Sure, people do not go around committing abduction, gang rape and murder, then trafficking narcotics and even smuggling a kilo of shabu into prison, hidden in a statue of the Blessed Virgin. But one must admit: while avoiding Sanchez’s heinous extremes, most people are drawn to pleasure, power and prestige, and spend much of their waking moments seeking and savoring those earthly lures.
The pains of mission
By contrast, how many choose the narrow gate of Lopez: expending two decades of her youth on missionary work in poor foreign lands, then advancing social causes and locking horns with the rich and powerful to protect abused, defenseless nature and poor communities?
In her struggle for the planet and the underprivileged, Lopez braved even vested interests in Congress in her avowed crackdown on destructive mining, leading to her ouster from the Cabinet, despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s staunch support. But her hardest trials may have been in the obscurity of her missionary years, rather than the televised prominence of her Bantay Bata and Bantay Kalikasan advocacies. In his homily at the wake Mass last Tuesday, the day after Lopez died, Fr. Nono Alfonso, head of Jesuit Communications, quoted her article of two years ago:
“What was my life like in Africa? I lived for six years in Kenya. Two of those years were in a slum area, where we had to stand in line for water and the toilet system was pathetic. It was there that I learned to value water. I had one pail and that was it: for bathing myself and using the last bit for washing my underwear. When one doesn’t have much, one treasures every little bit. I lived as the poor lived, so I learned how not to be wasteful — a trait I carry to this day where I use every bit of everything.”
Such a life was, of course, so far removed from her upbringing in the wealthy Lopez family till at age 18, she left home to don the orange yoga missionary habit. But her regimen would not be unfamiliar to the disciples of Jesus Christ. When he called his Apostles, he instructed the 12: “Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff” (Gospel of Matthew, 10:9-10).
Besides eschewing comforts, a disciple must also face conflict, if not martyrdom. Take St. Bartholomew, also called Nathanael, whose feast was celebrated yesterday. Early Christian tradition has it that he preached in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia, India and Armenia. In Abanopolis on the Caspian Sea’s western shore, St. Bartholomew was beheaded and flayed alive.
Lopez, too, had her flaying. Like this writer, she was one of the rare Cabinet appointees rejected by the Commission on Appointments (CA). She stood up for the environment, just as one defended the independence of the Civil Service Commission against political meddling, paying the price of CA rejection in September 2009. In upholding truth, justice and righteousness, be ready for pain.
The good life of the bad
Not so for those who put pleasure, power, prestige and pride above all. In his fiefdom of Calauan, where he reportedly also profited from jueteng and drugs, the Sanchez family held unchallenged and lucrative sway. He evidently thought he could do as he pleased without punishment, sure that, as in past crimes, no one would testify on his 1993 kidnapping and rape of a co-ed, whom he let his henchmen also violate before she and her boyfriend were murdered. But two of his goons turned state witness, and
Sanchez got seven life terms, plus huge damages to pay the victims’ families.
Now, his lawyers and whoever they got to in the parole system seemed set to spring him after serving 25 years of his life sentence, which may not exceed 40 years by law.
Most Filipinos, including President Duterte, opposed setting him free. Now, it looks like Sanchez won’t walk, since his claim of good behavior as basis for parole seems dubious, with narcotics use, smuggling and trafficking in prison. Not to mention his reported failure to fully render the compensation ordered by the court.
Yet even if Sanchez, God forbid, goes free, without true repentance and restitution, parole does not bring true salvation. To be redeemed, one must love God above all, and our neighbor as He loves us. Gina Lopez said in a TV interview just last month:
“God exists, He does, whether you believe it or not. He does. He does exist. And if you can go into the quiet of your heart, you will feel that love is with you every single microsecond of the day, like every single microsecond of your existence. That love is there for you, and it’s there for you unconditionally. And may it continue to hold us, and may it continue to nurture us and propel us to creating a piece of heaven in this country.”
No wonder Gina Lopez could confidently say at her deathbed: “Heaven awaits.” Amen.
Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net