Wednesday, December 5, 2012

To judge or not to judge: faith as loving, maturing and missionary

I MUST confess news accounts, both on television and on print media, aroused my curiosity into viewing the so-called “amalayer” video on youtube featuring a young Filipino lady’s unrelenting and loud verbal lashing of a seemingly more restrained lady security officer at a Manila LRT station. I have never been the same again. I went from amusement to disappointment to near trauma to pity to just profound sadness. And it wasn’t simply the video itself that proved riveting but also the comments and reactions by fellow Filipinos around the world that went viral: to the verbally lashing young lady, mostly condemnation, at times sympathy; to the lady security guard, compassion, even admiration.

I admit I came away chastened and saddened not only by what the video reveals about the state of our country’s public transport system (to think that Manila’s train systems are supposed to be better than what we have in the provinces) and the kind of people we can be to one another (both the persons in confrontation and the viral kibitzers) but also by a sense that I could have been either the challenged commuter or the abused security officer. It was sobering to realize how, as a people, we easily fall into the game of judging one another, unraveling our real and deep lack of pride in our identity and appreciation for another as Filipinos. That, to me, is at the heart of the so-called ‘crab mentality’ we often bemoan. That we sometimes appear to enjoy tearing one another apart privately, publicly or virally can only indicate our own lack of love for who we are.

The trouble with this attitude is that it makes us often prey to the near-autistic game of “we-Pinoys-are-awful-except-me-or-my-ilk”.  And since an autistic person (from ‘autism’, Greek for ‘auto’ or ‘self’) literally is someone who is not able to break out of ‘himself’ or ‘herself’, Pinoys with the crab mentality must be the most un-liberated persons in the world since Adam and Eve.

True, every person is born with some form of self-centeredness not unlike that of an autistic person. But psychologists as well as our common sense tell us that the maturity of a person is measured by his or her ability to go out of self and reach out to others. 

When Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel tells us, “Do not judge and you will not be judged” (in other versions, “Do not condemn and you will not be condemned” (Mt 7:1), he says a most-quoted statement whose implication we Pinoys easily miss: When we judge even fellow Pinoys, we only judge ourselves. People of faith that we are, it shouldn’t be too hard to see the disconnect between Pinoys who call themselves Catholic Christians and yet regularly engage in the national pastime of M.A.P. (Mutually Assured Putdowns). When our faith is genuine it will have to be mature and its maturity will be in evidence when we who believe are able to break out of our natural human self-centeredness and commit ourselves to a loving relationship with others, which, by the way, include fellow Filipinos, whoever they are, wherever they are.

John the Evangelist tells us that loving is not only the measure of the mature person but also of the Christian person. “Love is of God and anyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God” (1 Jn 4:7).  St. John defines, as it were, the Christian life as a life of loving because it comes from our having known God and being of God. That the Christian is someone who is of God and knows God is proven when he or she lives out authentic love which reaches out to God and neighbor.

But the more fundamental truth is really not that anyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. It is this: God is love and we know it not because we love him but because he has first loved us and this he has shown by sending us his Son so that through him our sins could be forgiven. “This is love: not that we loved God but that he first loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 Jn 4:10).  Jesus is our model of the loving person. The proof that he is of God and knows God is that he spent his life on earth loving others even to the point of giving his life for them on the Cross so that our sins might be forgiven. In the love of Jesus we see the nature of love as self-giving not self-keeping.

The supreme fruit of this love is that he shares his life as Son of God with us whom he made as sons and daughters in the Son through his suffering, death and resurrection. This love of Jesus, according to St. John, is actually the very love of God himself.

If sharing his life as Son of God is the apex of the love of God in Jesus Christ, it is small wonder that in the Gospel of St. Matthew he asks us his disciples to do the same by sharing our discipleship, our life of loving relationship with God and with one another, with all human beings. This is the missionary charge. The loving person who is a true disciple of Christ is essentially a missionary, someone who shares his discipleship, his life with Christ. “Go and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19).” The Filipino nation rose to life from its dark ages of rigor mortis because heroes like Rizal, Bonifacio or Ninoy Aquino gave up their lives out of love for the country. Would it be any less when it is God’s Son who gives us his life so that it may become ours too?  

“Beloved, if God has loved has so, then we must have the same love for one another”, says John the Evangelist (1 Jn 4:11). It is the love of God in Christ that we share as a missionary Church and we should never look too far to begin doing it. Here in our own backyard we can be missionaries to one another. That verbally bashing young lady shouldn’t miss what that other young lady security officer was preaching by her self-restraint and humble apology.

The bashing lady’s words: “Amalayer! Amalayer! (I’m a liar! I’m a liar!)  Our response: “I’m a lov-er! I’m a lov-er!”

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