What else is left to give up this Lent?
If Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting, penitential practices, and abstinence, where only one full meal and no meat are to be consumed, what else is there left to surrender? Haven’t we been deprived by the combined forces of the pandemic (natural) and thoughtless politics (manmade) of our basic human rights to life, work, privacy, travel, equality, association, fair trial, freedom of expression, and freedom from discrimination since last year?
A record-high 7 million families experienced real hunger last year with countless padres and madres-de-familias feeling inutile, blaming themselves for utter inability to deliver the needs of their kids, even the most elementary and basic ones! If Ash Wednesday ushers in the 40-day Lenten Season, in penitential imitation of Jesus’ fast in the desert, what else is there left to give up?
We are told that Ash Wednesday signals the practice of Christian mortification (Latin words mors-mortis), which means “death” or a sort of dying to self or denying oneself or killing the big ego, or denying oneself of pleasure and comforts, even legitimate ones, the imposition or sprinkling of ashes over our heads being a solemn reminder of human mortality. But didn’t thousands of us actually die in the “drug war” killings since 2016 and a lot more last year, as we, in 2021, continue to unearth the horror of death in our own neighborhood almost on a daily basis?
What about the “death” of agriculture and its collateral damage on the wala-nawala-binalewala (last-lost-least) sector of society, the farmers after the Taal Volcano eruption and devastating typhoons of 2020, and the marginalized fisherfolk, who with their wooden outriggers are being threatened by the new Chinese coast guard law and therefore prevented from earning their daily living?
Just as President Duterte bluntly admitted recently that the country’s livelihood is in shambles, “sinking deeper and deeper,” aren’t a million more Filipinos being forced to take up their daily, not annual, crosses to Calvary, ang Kalbaryo ng kani-kanilang buhay, the Calvary where hungry, jobless, and depressed citizens are crucified? How many more Filipinos will suffer when our national debt hits 13.7 trillion pesos in 2022?
Even when you’re not cut, hematidrosis causes you to perspire blood. It means those tiny blood vessels and veins inside your body ruptured under intense stress, emotional, psychological, or both. This medical condition happened to Jesus in his agony in Gethsemane as he perspired blood when He was bargaining for the price of redemption. Jesus sighed, wept, and surrendered to His Father’s will.
Medical sciences say that hematidrosis is an extremely rare physical condition. Now the extremely rare becomes common. The physical condition becomes psycho-emotional for millions of Filipinos due to Covid-19 and thoughtless politics. I’m afraid that the rare bleeding condition in its psycho-emotional sense is now frequent and common among our front-liners, who are overworked and underpaid; among the newly retrenched professionals and unemployed OFWs; and among our kids who wake up in the middle of the night, crying, and staring off at nothing, tulala.
Never in my life have I seen so many Jesuses surviving in the most stressful situations, and suffering from hematodisis of some sort — depressed, isolated, weeping and perspiring with mystical blood, and tulala. Everywhere they look, things look black, dark, and bleak, feeling so helpless. Hopeless.
Dear God, we need you right now, when nothing seems certain and despair numbs our souls. When doubts assail us, when we are so down and troubled, give us hope. Make us see the silver lining behind
the darkest clouds or, at least, make every suffering Filipino feel much closer to Jesus, who knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
…And his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22: 43-44).
Jose Mario Bautista Maximiano (facebook.com/josemario.maximiano) is the author of THE BEGINNING AND THE END (Claretian, 2016) and 24 PLUS CONTEMPORARY PEOPLE: God Writing Straight with Twists and Turns (Claretian, 2019).