Today, we invite you to consider themes of light, truth, and justice through the theology of Eleazar Fernandez; protest as a method for seeking justice as acknowledged in Catholic social teaching; and contemplation on the People Power Revolution in the Philippines.
In the past, YHWH humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future YHWH
will bring glory to this Road to the Sea, this Land beyond the Jordan, this Galilee of the Nations.
YHWH, you have made the nation greater—
you have brought them abundant joy!
They celebrate in your presence
as with the harvest celebrations,
or as warriors celebrate when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the weight on their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressors—
You have shattered it, as you did at the defeat of Midian.
Response: O God, You are my light and my salvation.
O God, You are my light and my salvation; / whom will I fear?
You are the stronghold of my life; / of whom will I be afraid?
R: O God, You are my light and my salvation.
One thing have I asked of You, Adonai,
That I may dwell in Your house / all the days of my life,
To behold Your beauty / and to inquire in the Temple.
R: O God, you are my light and my salvation.
I believe that I will see the goodness of Our God / in the land of the living!
Wait for Our God, be strong, and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for Our God!
R: O God, you are my light and my salvation.
I beg you, sisters and brothers,
in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ,
to agree in your message.
Let there be no factions.
Rather, be united in mind and judgment.
I have been informed, my sisters and brothers,
by certain members of Chloe’s household,
that you are quarreling among yourselves.
What I mean is, one of you is saying,
“I belong toPaul,” another, “I belong to Apollos,”
still another, “I belong to Cephas,” still another, “I belong to Christ.”
What — has Christ been divided into parts?
Was it Paul who was crucified for you?
Was it in Paul’s name that you were baptized?
Frankly, I am thankful I didn’t baptize any of you, except Crispus and Gaius,
so that none of you can say you were baptized in my name!
Oh yes, I did baptize the household of Stephanas,
but no one else as far as I can remember.
The point is, Christ didn’t send me to baptize,
but to preach the gospel — not with human rhetoric, however,
lest the cross of Christ be rendered void of its meaning!
When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he went back to Galilee.
He left Nazareth and settled in Capernaum, a lakeside town near the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali.
In this way, the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled:
“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea on the far side of the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles:
the people who lived in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”
From that time on, Jesus began his preaching
proclaiming the message, “Change your
hearts and minds, for the kindom of heaven
is at hand!”
As Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee,
he watched two brothers — Simon, who was called Peter, and Andrew —
casting a net into the sea. They fished by trade.
Jesus said to them,
“Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of humankind.”
They immediately abandoned their nets and began to follow Jesus.
Jesus walked along further and caught sight of a second pair of brothers —
James and John, begot of Zebedee.
They too were in their boat, mending their nets with their father.
Jesus called them, and immediately they abandoned both boat and father to follow him.
Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues,
proclaiming the Good News of the kindom of heaven
and healing all kinds of diseases and sicknesses among the people.
The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved.
The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.
Light is an important theme in the readings for the day—shedding light in one way or another on what is good and what is evil. In a time where it can be easy to live as though the truth were not true, given the very real ways our society and media can shape perspectives, shedding light on what is the truth and what are lies is an important part of the work for social justice.
In his book Reimagining the Human: Theological Anthropology in Response to Systemic Evil, Filipino theologian and UCC pastor Eleazar Fernandez sheds light on the understanding of how this question of good and evil has become more complex in today’s world. In the face of those who may say, for example, that, “Perception is real, the truth is not,” Fernandez uncovers how social structures might obscure the truth with perceptions that only seem to be good. Fernandez rightly points this out in the way sin is framed as rebellion against God alone—when sin is framed as just rebellion against God, it makes the victims of sin invisible; when injustice is framed as only the individual’s actions, it hides the systems and structures at work that also amplify the moral harm of a person’s actions and reinforce oppression.
Fernandez talks especially about racism, sexism, classism, and naturism, four interlocking oppressive systems that can hide injustices people face by making it seem as though such injustice is due to only a few “bad” individuals whose actions are not connected. Rather than compartmentalizing these acts and people, Fernandez shows the connections between them, and brings to light how the systems and structures encourage certain behavior from people, forming part of underlying cultures that people emulate consciously or unconsciously. Racism, sexism, classism, and naturism provide the ideological foundations that violate people and nature, rather than creating a society with care for the well-being of creation.
In his book, Toward a Theology of Struggle, Fernandez tells us that our response should be to protest against such systems, including challenging these ideological foundations. Fernandez does so by inviting us to reimagine what it means to be a human being in right relation with each other and with creation—an alternative way of being that will encourage the flourishing of creation, human beings and non-human beings alike. Struggle and protest are key parts of doing theology and of challenging these oppressive systems.
Fernandez’ work reminds us of a story that Edward Feinstein recounts in Capturing the Moon: Classic and Modern Jewish Tales. A Jewish rabbi asked of his students:
A rabbi once asked his students, “How do we know when the night has ended and the day has begun?”
The brightest of the students offered an answer: “Rabbi, when I look out at the fields and I can distinguish between my field and the field of my neighbor, that’s when the night has ended and the day has begun.”
A second student offered his answer: “Rabbi, when I look from the fields and I see a house and I can tell that it’s my house and not the house of my neighbor, that’s when the night has ended and the day has begun.”
A third student offered an answer: “Rabbi, when I see an animal in the distance and I can tell what kind of animal it is, whether a cow or a horse or a sheep, that’s when the night has ended and the day has begun.”
Each answer brought a sadder, more severe frown to the rabbi’s face until finally he shouted, “No! Not one of you understands! You only divide! You divide your house from the house of your neighbor, your field from your neighbor’s field; you distinguish one kind of animal from another; you separate one color from the others. Is that all we can do—divide, separate, split the world into pieces? Isn’t the world broken enough? Isn’t the world split into enough fragments? Is that what Torah is for? No, my dear students, it’s not that way, not that way at all!”
The shocked students looked into the sad face of their rabbi. One of them ventured, “Then Rabbi, tell us: How do we know the night has ended and the day has begun?”
The rabbi stared back into the faces of his students, and with a voice suddenly gentle and imploring, he responded: “When you look into the face of the person who is beside you and you can see that the person is your brother or your sister, then finally the night has ended and the day has begun.”
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Shedding light on these -isms, revolting against these unjust systems, and bringing Catholicism to bear on these issues is an important part of Catholic social thought, but often this comes at great challenge to those in power. Those in power are rarely willing to give up power, so the importance of protest cannot be stressed enough in holding those in power accountable.
Bringing to light how this power has not been used for the common good is the beginning of most encyclicals, but protesting against these ills has not always had a welcome place in Catholic social teaching as it has been perceived to be inciting class struggle. For example, Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 Papal Encyclical Rerum novarum focused on what business owners and those who had capital could do to lessen economic injustice, discouraging conflict in the name of peace. However, such teaching became a way to justify stopping protest, seeing it as negative and mutually exclusive to peace-building and unity. Often, the Church equates protest to unproductive violence.
Nevertheless, more recent Catholic social thought has lifted up the important role of challenging the status quo through protest and struggle, rather than quelling dissent. History has many examples of protests that led to justice and the well-being of the people and the environment. In his article “The Grace of Conflict,” Catholic theologian Bradford Hinze writes, “The offer of God’s grace in these instances [of conflict and protest] can elicit an examination of conscience and repudiation of prejudice and behavior that provide the conditions for conversation and transformation, repentance and healing.” Similarly, Pope Francis’s 2013 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii gaudium, heralds protests as spaces, “Where thousands of people call for freedom, a voice in public life, justice and a variety of other demands.” Challenging those in power and holding them accountable does not always end in dialogue, given the reluctance of those in power to give what is due to those who have suffered. We are thus dared to protest in ways that offer the space for conversation and transformation, as Hinze emphasizes, challenging the powers that be in ways that could lead to justice and restoration of right relationship with one another.
Consider the following: How do we shed light on the signs of our times and challenge the powers that be? How do we use our time, our talent, and our physical bodies to point out systemic injustice and surface the evil that needs to be rejected, and the good that needs to be lifted up and emulated?
In Philippine history, the Catholic Church and its leadership have, at certain points, lent their voices to protest against unjust systems and structures, shedding light on human rights abuses and corruption in the Philippine government. A person who embodies our lessons from today is Jaime Cardinal Sin, former archbishop of Manila. When he was alive, Cardinal Sin was a key player in beginning the People Power revolution, a movement that toppled Ferdinand Marcos Sr. from his dictatorship and embodies our principles of just protest. In February 1986, Cardinal Sin called on the Filipino people through the Catholic Church’s radio station Radyo Veritas to go protect senior officials who had defected from the dictatorship. Over a million people gathered in this effort, with many religious sisters also at the forefront, and civilians holding religious icons and figures in the face of tanks and rifles. The People Power revolution would always be known as the peaceful and bloodless revolution that forced a dictator out of office and into exile, restoring democracy, and installing the first female president in the Philippines—Corazon Aquino.
The photos below of the People Power revolution invite us to think about how we resist and protest. Consider the following: How do we shed light on the signs of our times and challenge the powers that be? How do we use our time, our talent, and our physical bodies to point out systemic injustice and surface the evil that needs to be rejected, and the good that needs to be lifted up and emulated?
Image description: In a black and white photo, two Filipina sisters stand in front of a large crowd of people. One sister holds a rosary, her mouth open in protest. The other holds her hand to her mouth, considering what is ahead.
Image description: In a black and white photo with a building in the background, people gather around a barricade with soldiers bearing machine guns inside. The people have their hands raised in the air, and someone holds a statue of Mary in the air toward the soldiers.