Who Is Your God?
edited: Tuesday, October 08, 2002
By Arsenio C Jesena
Posted: Tuesday, October 08, 2002
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This question was asked during an extemporaneous sermon in Bukidnon, the year was 1974 , the height of Martial Law in the Philippines .
“WHO IS YOUR GOD?”
(Note: In the paralyzing FEAR of Martial Law, around the year 1974, ACJ gave this extemporaneous sermon at Sunday Mass in the presence of the Provincial Governor and other Government Officials in Bukidnon, Philippines. It was also in Bukidnon where Father Godofredo Alingal, SJ, who had valiantly helped the poor against the Christian exploiters, the abusive military and the avaricious government of Martial Law, was murdered by hired assassins).
Perhaps in the recent past you may have asked yourself the question, “Why do Priests interfere in things not directly spiritual? Why do they concern themselves with such things as the Elections and problems of human rights and cases of injustice?”
If the Priests did not interfere in these things, they would doubtless become popular — among the exploiters; accepted — among the rich; secure — from the threat of imprisonment; comfortable — in doing nothing.
But your Priests have chosen not to be popular, not to be accepted, not to be secure, not to be comfortable. They do “interfere” in things not directly spiritual. And why? I will tell you why.
The news of the massacre of the Manobos in the ranch of Jose Revilla-Reyes reached us many days ago. At first it seemed only like an impersonal newspaper article: with the number of people slain, and names we did not personally know.
But six days ago, they came. The survivors came. They came to my office. Some of them were wounded. You could see the wounds, and smell them. You could listen to the survivors, and feel their anguish and their pain. Then the impersonal names all of a sudden became real persons. Became pulsating reality.
The woman — a Manobo woman, was, like my mother and my sisters, like your mother and your sisters — a woman. She was also a mother: as such, she had experienced the joys, the sufferings, the sorrows of being a mother.
The baby she was carrying was also like the baby you carried; like the baby you left in your home, when you went to church today. . . . And the mother’s milk from that woman’s breast was the same kind of milk that we all sucked from our mother’s breast. That Manobo woman was as human as EVERYONE of us here tonight.
All those natives — those Manobos — were as human as everyone of us.
And they were survivors of the massacre — the ruthless, inhuman massacre of the Manobos in the ranch of Jose Revilla Reyes.
AND WHO WERE KILLED? SIX HUMAN BEINGS WERE KILLED. AN OLD MAN. TWO YOUNGER MEN. A SIX-YEAR OLD BOY. A WOMAN. AND THE WOMAN’S BABY.
DO YOU KNOW HOW THE BABY WAS KILLED? THE MURDERERS HELD HER BY THE FEET. AND DASHED HER HEAD AGAINST THE ROCKS. THEY HELD THE BABY BY THE FEET. AND DASHED HER YOUNG, TENDER HEAD AGAINST THE ROCKS. AGAIN. AND AGAIN. AND AGAIN. . . .
The survivors of the massacre said that Reyes’ men intentionally gave them some beef, some cow meat, and then accused them of being rustlers, and then opened fire on them, to kill them, and thus scare all other Manobos away from the ranch of Jose Revilla Reyes, a ranch so vast it is at least 10,000 hectares wide.
One human life, my friends, is worth more than all the cows in the world. . . . One human life is worth more than all the land on this earth.
And no one — no one — has the right to take the life of another!!! No one has the right to kill a human being.
And that was why, when Bombi Mandac was killed, we all acknowledged that his enemies were wrong in killing him.
But then — do you not see, my friends, the terrible contrast? When Mandac was killed, Malaybalay was shocked. But when the Manobos in Reyes’ ranch were massacred, was Malaybalay shocked? No. And why not? Because they were “mere” natives?
Because they were not Christians? Because they were not children of a General? — or was it simply because they were NOT RICH, and therefore, were not significant?
When Mandac was killed, the PC soldiers and the Colonel and the Municipal Mayor and the Board Member rushed to the scene to investigate and to see to it that justice was done.
But when the Manobos were massacred in Reyes’ ranch, who rushed to the scene? Did a Mayor or a Board Member or a Colonel rush to the scene? No. And why not? Because the victims were “mere” natives? Because they were not children of a General? Or was it simply because they were NOT RICH, and therefore, were not significant?
And why, my friends, did the Manobos, the survivors of the massacre, not go to the military? Why did they not run to the civil government? They needed protection. They needed justice. But why did they run to the Priest instead? Why? Was it not because they knew, from experience, that they could expect neither protection nor justice from any other source — except the Priest?
And the more facts you learn about the case, the madder and the more desperate you get!!! For you encounter lies, the distortion of facts, the collusion between the rancher and the military, the cowardice of government employees, the hiding and destroying of evidence, the mockery of justice — and all because the rancher concerned is a friend of Ferdinand Marcos!
“I made Marcos rich! I made Marcos President!!” is the boast of Jose Revilla-Reyes.
And so — once again — human beings are butchered, and the guilty goes unpunished, in this land under Martial Law, which, according to the government propagandists, is a paradise, where peace and justice are supreme!
When you go home tonight, my friends, think of your fellow human beings — the three men, the boy of six, the woman and the baby. They were all slain — to give way to the ambition and the avarice of another Presidential Crony!
And now, my friends — do you still ask why Priests “interfere” in things that are not directly spiritual?
We do interfere, because we are human. And because we are Christian.
Because we are human, we can see. And feel. And think. And can I, in the face of all this bloodshed and suffering, this selfishness, and ruthlessness — do nothing — and still call myself a man?
Because we are Christian, we adore God, and love and serve Him in His People, especially in the poor — the oppressed, the least-privileged among human beings.
And you, my friends, where is your humanity? How do you feel, and what will you do about Jose Revilla Reyes and the Manobos?
And — my friends — especially you who work for the government — where is your Christianity? Whom do you adore? Who is your God? Who is the God you worship — the God you obey — the God you are loyal to — at every moment of the day?
YES — WHO IS YOUR GOD?
IS IT JESUS CHRIST? OR IS IT MARCOS?
fr. arsenio c. jesena,s.j.