Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Seeing in the dark

I WAS driving about four meters away from the Loom Bridge in Borongan when I spotted a young boy of ten signaling all vehicles to stop. He was crossing the street with a man, obviously blind, holding on to his right hand and walking nervously behind him. I felt sorry for the blind man. Still, it occurred to me, “How lucky of him to have someone, maybe a son or a nephew, guide him, where he goes.”

But it also dawned on me: We are all really blind and walking in the dark. And every New Year provides proof for that.

We are all blind because nobody really knows what’s bound to happen tomorrow, the next day, the next week or the next few months. There are those who say the year 2012 will usher in the end of the world. But didn’t they say the same thing in 1999 about 2000? There are those who say, based on scientific prognostications, that we are in for unprecedented and more destructive weather patterns due to global warming, our wet seasons will become wetter (we already have the terrible floods in many parts of the country as advance warnings) and our dry seasons drier (we also had bitterly dry El NiƱo months in previous years to give us a prior idea of what to expect). Politically the impending impeachment trial at the Philippine Senate on eight articles against Chief Justice Corona of the Supreme Court could potentially further erode confidence in the Philippine judiciary, at the least, or fan political instability, at worst.

Because we are blind and walking in the dark, it is understandable why, at the start of every year, astrologers, experts or pseudo-experts in predicting future events, are the darlings of the media. That to me is our human psyche rebelling against the dark and rising, determined, to dispel it with whatever means available, valid or not, good or bad, scientific or fake. We simply do not want to walk in the dark or dread the idea of having to. With self-proclaimed experts of the future surrounding us, we feel we can now lick the darkness and begin to embark on a journey into the unknown.

But actually all we need to do is have a little child to guide us.

The Child Jesus.

This is the option of faith. It is to walk in the dark alleys and side-streets of life with Jesus, the new-born Babe, taking our right hand and leading us in the real “daang matuwid (straight path)”. The option is based on his own words, words worth relying on because he is of God, he is Son of God: “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in the dark. He will have light and life” (Jn 8:12). It is the option based on the experience of so many who have made it through the pitch black night by holding on to the Son of Man and, in the end, reaching the right destination—heaven. Church and even secular annals are replete with miraculous events attributed to the intercessions of saints, and are an indubitable proof of one thing: They have really arrived in heaven, their faith proven genuine and rewarded. As by-standers watch by the sidelines of life, another truth stares them full in the face: There is such a thing as heaven, then. If so, then that other place of eternal torment must also be real.

But first, we need the humility of the blind man behind the child guide. He wouldn’t have been where he is if he didn’t come to terms with his own blindness. That, I believe, is where most of our problem lies. We find it so many times too hard to accept our unseeing. We often think we can find our own way in the dark or even see through the dark. The wound of concupiscence (the tendency to opt for what is wrong or evil) born of original sin is nowhere more evident than in the pride we display as we come face to face with the dark. We sometimes call this self-reliance or freedom or independence. But call it by any name, it achieves the purposes of the prince of darkness—get us away from going to Jesus Christ and confessing, with the blind men who would receive healing: “Son of David, have mercy on us” (Mt 20:30-31).

With humility, we also need the courage to take the risk, nay, the gamble of holding on to someone else’s hand. The blind man by Loom Bridge had that courage because he knew his guide. Do we know our real Child Guide? How deeply? This determines our commitment to gamble our life on his kingdom, taking his right hand and never letting go of it. “Tenacious,” a wise old Boronganon once told me, “is what you see when a crab gets you by the hand and never lets you go even if you smash it to pieces against a rock.” This is what we see in martyrs. They hold on to Jesus Christ and will never ever let go of his hand even if the worst persecution or death runs against them like a berserk freight train. (Two of them were Pinoys: St. Lorenzo Ruiz and Blessed Pedro Calungsod. Which is proof enough we are very capable of world-class tenacity too) They have the courage to go with their humility.

With humility and courage, we also need docility and obedience. It’s astounding how, today, young people and even the not so young anymore could be so docile to yoga, sports or dance gurus. What is so difficult with being docile or obedient to the Savior of the world? The wisdom of docility and obedience was visible in the blind man I saw by Loom Bridge. He would not have crossed the street safely had he hesitated or refused to follow the boy’s lead. He could have been hit by a vehicle had he been on his own. When Jesus heard the two blind men calling him, the evangelist Matthew tells us that he stopped and called them over to him. Because they obeyed him, Jesus had a chance to ask the all-important question: “What do you want me to do for you?” and they had the chance to answer, “Lord, open our eyes” (Mt 20:32-33). Because they obeyed first, they were healed.

By faith they were enabled not only to see but also to conquer the darkness.

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