Jesus vindicated


By Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, CM

When I went to Payatas on the eve of Easter, the mothers and widows of extrajudicial killings who organized themselves as a sewing group (Project SOW), were rushing the PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) to be donated to different hospitals. The Office of the Vice President requested them to help so as to produce fast something that is quite necessary to protect the lives of our frontliners.

As I was looking at them, I can see in their eyes a sense of joy, fulfillment and vindication. Two or three years ago, the whole world looked at them with scorn. The authorities killed their sons and husbands. Their neighbors did not talk to them. They were stigmatized ("asawa ng addict", "mabuti na lang namatay", "anak ng tokhang", etc.). People talked about them in hushed voices. They had no jobs to sustain their lives. In a way, this government “killed” them and their children's future as well.

This Easter, they have been vindicated. Once victims of armed men wearing masks and bonnets, now they help in the production of masks and gears that protect lives of other people. No full justice has been rendered yet. The formal courts have not even heard their cases. But their bright faces tell me that the light of resurrection dawns in their lives.

On Pentecost day, Peter proclaimed: “The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead, of which we are witnesses” (Acts 3: 14). In the spirit of earlier Christian hymns, Paul writes: “He was revealed in flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16).

The first preachers emboldened by their Pentecost experience did not talk about the “resurrection” right away. They spoke about Jesus being “justified”, being “glorified”, being “raised by God”. Or, maybe, resurrection means precisely this: being vindicated and justified.

One thing is clear. Jesus did not raise himself up. He is alive because of the creative powers of God. He was not on auto-resurrection mode. All the verbs used in the above verses are in the passive mode (raised, taken up, vindicated, etc.). That means Jesus - who obeyed his Abba to the end to the point of giving up his life - is now a recipient of God’s action. While the world condemned him, he was vindicated by God.

He did not crawl out of the grave by himself, left his linens and walked out just like that for the world to see. When the body was not in the tomb, Mary Magdalene even thought that someone stole him because the last time she knew, he was lying there dead, totally dead.

But beyond all expectations, God has vindicated Jesus and done him justice. God raised him up, justified him. As if to tell the world that he was not what they thought he was. He was not guilty of the crime they attributed to him. “He whom you have killed by hanging him on a tree, God exalted him on his right hand” (Acts 5: 30 -31).

There are Catholics who think that this is against the Catholic doctrine because they were taught that Christ just rose by himself from the dead on his own powers. But the Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say: “The Father's power ‘raised up’ Christ his Son and by doing so perfectly introduced his Son's humanity, including his body, into the Trinity. Jesus is conclusively revealed as ‘Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his Resurrection from the dead’. St. Paul insists on the manifestation of God's power through the working of the Spirit who gave life to Jesus’ dead humanity and called it to the glorious state of Lordship.” (CCC 648).

This is not to deny the divinity of Jesus. This is just to show that even the most conservative of Catholic sources – Catechism of the Catholic Church – attests to God’s power (the Trinity) working on the resurrection of Jesus.

Why is this theological insight important? For the victims of injustice, like the widows of Payatas, the resurrected Lord becomes a sign of hope that someday God may render them justice. If God did it to Jesus, someday, somehow, somewhere, God will also vindicate them.

I was looking at the faces of these women with whom we journeyed for more than three years now. For a long time, their prayers were an echo of the pleadings of the Suffering Servant in the Old Testament who said: “The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near” (Isaiah 50: 7-8).

This year, it begins to be felt in their lives. A sense of the resurrection dawns. May the God who vindicated Jesus may fully come to vindicate them and all those who suffer around us.

Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, C.M.
St Vincent SchoolofTheology - Adamson University