God "needs" us for his Reign to break in

Al Cariño
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Times
September 7, 2003
Reproduced with Permission

When the allied forces led by the United States pushed back the Iraqi army to its borders in the 100-hour 1990 Gulf War, the whole world cheered. But not Pope John Paul II. Why? Because for him, war does not make peace, is "a defeat for the whole of humanity."

A decade later and primarily because of the United Nation's embargo on Iraq which was pushed by the US, it was not Iraq's President Saddam Hussein who was left suffering but the Iraqi people. They were deprived of the most basic of needs - food, potable water and medicine. Though proven right, the pope's voice fell on deaf ears then.

Unable to learn from the past, the same historical mistake was committed when the United States and its "coalition of the 'unwilling'" - without provocation and with questionable motives - attacked Iraq early this year in the wake of the 9\11\01 terrorist attack against the US. As in the earlier war, it is again the Iraqi people who are suffering. And as then, the pope's message fell on deaf ears.

In our own country, when President Joseph Estrada's "all-out war" in 2000 against the MILF resulted in the capture or abandonment of all MILF camps in Central Mindanao, practically the whole country cheered. But not the peace advocates who from the very beginning repeatedly appealed to both sides for a ceasefire and for the resumption of the peace negotiations. But just like the pope's on the two wars in Iraq, their appeals fell on deaf ears. Thus, though on a smaller scale, we saw in our midst another "defeat for the whole of humanity."

And even before the smoke had cleared, the war took another form - guerrilla warfare. The victims? The combatants from both sides, of course. But innocent civilians were not spared. Of the hundreds of thousands driven from their homes and farms, tens of thousands were forced to live in "tent cities". Many died for lack of basic necessities. Moreover, children, aside from being deprived of schooling, suffered psycho-emotional traumas which would probably haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Tragic events like these occur when one party sees only its own side of the problem and listens only to its own interests. And this will keep on occurring not only here but anywhere in the world until leaders realize that in war there are no winners and in dialogue there are no losers.

Prophesying on the eventual return of the Chosen people from their exile in Babylon, Isaiah said, "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing" (Jer. 35:5-6). The Scriptures used the wretched situation of the lame, blind, deaf, epileptics, and lepers (they were believed to be in the power of Satan) as a figure of humankind's alienation from God. On the other hand, their healing was a sign of God's powerful and caring presence - His Reign.

One such sign we see in the Gospel reading - the healing of the deaf-mute (Mk. 7:31-37). With Jesus making the deaf-mute hear and speak, and the blind see (next chapter), Mark is telling us that Satan's dominion over the world was coming to an end and was being replaced with God's Reign. The healing of people by Jesus was the sign foretold by Isaiah: that God was already liberating people both from their physical and spiritual infirmities and death - all the handiwork of Satan; that God's Reign was breaking into the world in the person of Jesus.

For the Reign of God to break in our day, we need the healing of our eyes so that we can see the action of God in our time; the healing of our ears so that we can hear what God is saying to us through the events going on around us; the healing of our tongues so that we can communicate to others what God is trying to say to us here and now; and the healing of our entire person so we can cooperate with God in the realization of His plans for us. And when we do so, we are in effect helping bring about Reign of God on earth. In this sense, God has "need" for us.

Unfortunately, the dawn of peace which is an essential component of God's Reign has not yet broken among us here and will probably be long in coming. This is primarily because the leaders - both of the government and MILF - refuse to see beyond their vested interests even if it means war along with the destructions, dislocations and deaths it brings.

But we can continue to hope - if we let God heal our eyes, ears and tongues. Then we can put them in the service of peace - to see with our eyes the sorry lot of the victims of war, to listen with our ears to their cries and pain, and to shout with our tongues that we are for peace. Add to this our entire person and we will see ourselves moving from words to action - for peace. Then God's peace may break in our midst sooner rather than later.