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Black Saturday: We are not guilty spectators.

Black Saturday is usually a quiet, mournful day. But it triggers some unwanted tendencies in many of us, like the fear of our own death, aversion to silence and proneness to guilt.

We like to think of death as the death of somebody else, not ours. We fear death because we see it as a definitive departure from everything familiar. We cannot envision a future in terms that are different from what we are accustomed to. We prefer to see the future from the perspective of sameness, a future wherein the blessings of the present are preserved, only extended to eternity. We still can't appreciate what St. Paul wrote: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love him." (ICorinthians 2:9)

The silence of Black Saturday also makes us uncomfortable. Noise and crowd are the signature brand of modernity. Everything in our high-tech world has acquired voices. Elevators, cars, buses, doors, wristwatches, and clocks speak. Answering machines communicate to us on behalf of persons who will not talk to us. Wherever we go, the radio, loudspeakers, TV, Walkman, or iPod, bombard our eardrums with non-stop blasts masquerading as music.

There was a time when it was easy to escape the noise and the crowd by going to a far-away place. Not anymore. When the cell phone rings, the whole world knows where we are, and turning it off creates anxious chatter within us. If we don't answer the phone, we fear it might entail a loss of connection. So, even when we are in a solitary quiet place, the cell phone provokes so much internal noise making it impossible to experience silence.

For some years now, I have always watched the movie The Passion of the Christ on Black Saturday. When it was first shown in the Philippines, it was a box-office hit because it fits perfectly into our guilt-laden culture. Many of us who watched the movie were overwhelmed with remorse, convinced that Jesus was the divine punching bag that stopped God from annihilating us, incorrigible human beings.

I remember reading a news item about a man who confessed to a brutal murder after he had seen the movie. But that was the exception, not the rule because guilt is a poor motivator for conversion.

I think it was not the film's intent to overwhelm viewers with guilt. It is a brutal portrayal of the powerlessness and suffering of God. Paradoxical as it may seem, the way of suffering and weakness is the way that the all-powerful God had chosen to save us. St. Paul wrote that "on the cross, Jesus is the embodiment of the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1Cor.1:23).

The Passion of the Christ is a powerful way of reminding us that Holy Week becomes truly meaningful when we see ourselves as active participants, not guilty bystanders or spectators, in God's work of salvation. Christ's admonition to his apathetic apostles: "Could you not suffer for one hour with me?" is meant for us too.

Unless we feel in our heart the pain suffered by others because of our favorite sins, our neglect, apathy, or cold-heartedness, Black Saturday will just be another guilt trip and a reminder of our fear of death and allergy to silence.


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Title Annotation:National
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Apr 19, 2014
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