By Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, CM

[Holy Friday Reflection]

To the ruling elite of Jerusalem, Jesus was a subversive prophet. His proclamation that a new kingdom is imminent—the reign of God—was quite disturbing. In Jesus’ time, "basileia" (kingdom) was a word used only to describe the Roman Empire. There was no other "basileia", only Caesar’s.

But Jesus appropriated it and used it to proclaim God’s reign among the poor. In this new kingdom, the victims, the outcast, the sick and the poor find themselves in the center. His words but also his life and works were a scathing critique to the government that excluded them.

The kingdom is not in Rome; "it is among you", Jesus said. The kingdom is not among the powerful; it is among the people. The kingdom is not in the Temple; "it is among the poor".

So, when he turned over the tables of money changers, the powers in Jerusalem—who gained from this corruption—did all they can to silence him. What he did in the temple during this last week nailed his fate. This upset the Roman authorities. He disturbed the stability of the temple that was the symbol of "Pax Romana", the violent status quo.

He was condemned as a criminal and, in a sham trial with stage-managed witnesses, was judged to be crucified. A Jesuit theologian-martyr, Ignacio Ellacuria said: The question shifts from "Why did Jesus die?" to "why was Jesus killed?". For Jesus did not just die for our sins. He was killed because he stood up for justice and truth.

I find it necessary to remind us of this context lest we forget that the events we celebrate on Holy Week are genuinely prophetic and deeply political. Christians today are allergic to making religion political. They are angry when bishops, priests and sisters pray for a candidate inside the church. They react when priests preach about cheating, stealing, and killing in their homilies or use the color pink in the liturgy. Hindi daw dapat haluan ng pulitika ang simbahan. This is too political, they complain. And threaten not to go to church anymore. The Pharisees and Sadducees also did the same.

But Jesus was political. He was politically subversive. He did not mince words. He spoke truth to power. For this, he was killed!

How can millions of Catholics piously venerate the cross on Good Friday while at the same time cheering and campaigning to vote for the perpetrators of extrajudicial killing, endless corruption and violence?

How can people vote for politicians who plundered our economy for decades and did not even own up to it? In fact, they have used our money to dupe us to vote for them once more? Di ba ginisa tayo sa ating sariling mantika? Tama nga si Gary Granada sa kanta niyang "Hold up".

"Nanakawan na at naholdap si Juan
Ngunit ang holdaper pa ang pinasalamatan
Nabaon sa utang ang bayan ni Juan
Ngunit ang nagnakaw pa ang pinararangalan."

How can we vote for people who were allies of Duterte then and now? By making the infamous fist bump with him, they also approve of the killing the poor, of the corruption of pandemic money, of silencing De Lima and other "subversives" or "terrorists" with trumped up charges from people who have no choice (and the truth is coming out now) — and with all these — of bringing back this country to Ground Zero with trillions of debts placed on the shoulders of this generation and the next.

And then we elect people who will never call these people into account, moreover, will continue this same evil regime —as they already say in their campaigns? But how can we?

We are applauding for Barabbas, the real criminal, and condemning the innocent Jesus. Again.

Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, CM
Vincentians Chair for Social Justice
St. John's University - New York

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