The High Stakes of Being Good

22 November 2007 Memorial of St. Cecilia, virgin and martyr
1 Maccabees 2, 15-29 and Luke 19, 41-44

Jerusalem takes its name from ‘salem’ which means peace. Scriptures have it that God chose to dwell in that great city (1 Kgs 11; Jeremiah 3; Psalm 2). And the temple which is the main structure for worship, reminds every dweller and visitor of the constant presence of God. When Jesus approached Jerusalem and wept, He said, “what makes of peace is now hidden from your eyes.” It is an anguish: if they only knew that God was visiting them and coming home to His chosen city, they would have experienced lasting peace.

Today, however, we get to see Jesus in a different light: we know Jesus is God and therefore His entrance into Jerusalem is like the entrance of a king on his way home to his throne. It was not the case, however, in history. The very King was manhandled, suffered terribly and died. He was killed in his own home city. And His enemies were his very own people who did not recognize his visit.

Every peacemaker know the stakes of peacekeeping. Good intentions are not enough. In fact, it is more difficult to be good nowadays — especially if you’re in the public arena. Fr. Ed Panlilio who got elected in Pampanga as the 26th Governor is keeping his promise: that his leadership will be “consultative, participative, transparent and God-centered.” But it is also being bombarded by his enemies — co-government officials — who are not getting much income because of Among Ed’s transparency. It would now be difficult to shove money into many officials’ pockets.

Jesus was right: your enemies would raise a stake against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides, and will smash you to the ground. If these corrupt officials could see beyond their own vested interest; if they have the eyes to see that corruption is devastating people’s lives; if they have the heart to bear the sufferings of many poor people, they would have changed. But a heartless individual is oblivious to any of God’s visits.

How many of us have suffered because we’ve done what is right? We report a cheating incident to the teacher, and we are branded as ass-kissers (mga sipsip!). We refuse a friend’s invitation to party because we need the time to study, and we suffer their contempt. We turn down a bribe offer, and we earn the ire of fellow officers who would accuse us of pretension (nagpapakalinis!). In addition, how many of us have participated in bullying another, or ganging up on another because they just don’t conform with our standards or our ways? Or how many of us enjoyed dragging a person to sin?

There are many though whose principles are as strong as their faith. And their lives are heroic. They are like soldiers: they chose a profession which they consciously know would endanger their lives. It is said that there are two groups of people in the world: the heroes and the losers. Heroes suffer for others. Losers make other people suffer.

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