is the subject of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:
One of the fascinating things to see is how full the churches were last weekend, what with the celebration of Easter Sunday. But what’s sad to note is that behind the facade of apparent devoutness lies a certain lukewarmness, perhaps even ignorance, of the significance of Holy Week and Easter. At worst, hypocrisy.
The events we commemorate last week are not dead events. They were meant to teach us how to lead our lives. Of the many significant events of the last week of Jesus, let us take three to ponder upon. The first had to do with Judas’ betrayal. Certainly, his motivations for turning traitor were not mentioned in the Gospels (except for John’s laconic reference of Satan entering Judas after the latter dipped bread with Christ). Some commentators claim, however, that Judas felt disappointed with Jesus when it became clearer by the day that He was not leading a political revolution. Jesus’ somewhat weird statement that His followers should eat His body and drink His blood (which actually caused a number of His disciples to leave) may also have something to do with it.
The second event is Peter’s denial. This came after Peter chopped off an ear of one of the arresting soldiers. Before that, Peter had made loud declarations of his willingness to die for Christ. However, in Peter’s zeal to be near the developments, in his eagerness to be part of the events, he pushed too much into the crowd and there he was identified as a follower of Christ. This set the stage for his denial. Upon being recognized (by servant girls no less), Peter, the supposedly bold brave man, started to fear for himself and denied knowing Jesus three times. Which resulted in him forever being depicted with a rooster on his shoulder. But I digress ...
The third event is when Pilate asked the crowd to choose between Jesus and Barabbas. This was a profound choice. Barabbas, contrary to common knowledge, was no common thief. He was a revolutionary, a rebel, who was not above using violent means to achieve what are arguably good intentions. The name of Barabbas himself gives us a clue as to his identity. Barabbas means "Son of the Father." In effect, what Pilate presented to the crowd were two Messianic figures. But the differences between the two could not be greater. The crowd, of course, chose Barabbas.
What is the point? The point is that in all three situations, Judas, Peter, and the crowd were given a choice. That choice is something we also confront every day, every single day, of our lives. The choice presented was: do we rely primarily on our expectations, plans, abilities, knowledge, and understanding? Or do we first put our trust in Him?
Judas and the crowd essentially thought that Jesus was too otherworldly, too impractical, when what was needed was decisive human action. Pilate, incidentally, was another pragmatist, who knowingly allowed an innocent man crucified to save his career. Peter, on the other hand, was too eager for action that he forgot the teachings of Christ that he made himself vulnerable to turning away from Him.
Obviously, I’m writing this article in relation to the RH Bill (now re-named Responsible Parenthood Bill). We are seemingly so eager to rely on our abilities, our intelligence, our plans that we forget to have the humility of remembering that we don’t know as much as we think we do. To solve poverty, to care for maternal health, to reduce teen pregnancy and abortions, these are all good intentions. But the means with which we seek to solve them, the reliance on contraception, are not in line with the faith that we profess as Catholics and the facts we know through human experience.
The interesting thing about this is that in the zeal of RH Bill proponents to defend the indefensible, they even essentially started resorting to that line of Pilate: "what is truth?" Because it is the truth itself that is now being questioned to justify the use of condoms: the authority of the Papal office, the primacy of natural law, the teachings of saints Jerome, Augustine, and De Sales, to Popes Pius XI, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, the apostolic duty of bishops, religious freedom and the right to proselytize, the diversion of tax money from education and necessary medicines, the carcinogenic nature of many contraceptives, the fact that contraceptive use resulted in the increase of unwanted pregnancies, abortions, and sexually transmitted disease, have weakened societies, and with no proven correlation to alleviating poverty. All this has to be wrong to make contraception right.
Yes, there are problems that the RH Bill seeks to address. But the RH Bill will never be the solution. Human action unrooted in a morality, ethic, or faith will always be futile. Judas, Peter, and the crowd that chose Barabbas taught us that.