Where is Jesus in your words?
Dear Cardinal Chito Tagle,
The people wish to see Jesus but in your words you have hidden Him. Why?
When you say we must “reflect, pray, and act,” have you forgotten the power of witness that compels us to “see, judge, and act?” We are called to look with open eyes and open hearts, and yet you prescribe reflection on your certainties that do not reflect reality. You say the war on drugs is not a matter of politics, and so I ask: Who brought this upon us? Was it not the President and his acolytes that decided for us? He who took a stance against your advice and, rather than consulting with his people, deliberately decided to take us to war—a war we did not want or need to fight because we know all too well the true ills that ail us.
And yet here we are: Our streets are bloodied, our children have been orphaned if not murdered, and the moral fiber of our society has collapsed. When our men are incited to rape our women, when our leaders lose sight of their moral compass and yell bloody murder, when a war rages and hatreds are aflame because of convenience and laziness to explain ourselves to each other, we stand to lose.
You tell me to reflect as if these were all a given. The theology of certain suffering devoid of doubt and rooted in Love is so medieval that I have to ask: Which pope in history leads the Church where you think we worship? Where do you go to church and which one do you lead?
You tell me to reflect when I would rather look. I want to SEE the fullness of our experience, and, in entering the intimacy of our people’s oppression, the poor especially, I choose to judge rather than pray. And I hope to God that I find the courage to act when I must.
For what good is our prayer when our senses have been numbed? When we are blind, mute, deaf and lame in the presence of our neighbors, what good is a lamentation? When there is no witness, where might one even find the words to cry out? I pray—but often to be reminded to care, to open up my being and feel all of it. I pray, not as a passive reaction to chaos but as an active invitation to hope. But in your terms, prayer is an escape, a flight from reality where Christ does not dwell.
Cardinal Tagle, the people wish to see Jesus. Where have you hidden Him? Why is He not with His people? Why do the widows of murdered men weep alone? Why must they raise frightened children without the comfort of our Catholic consolation? Why do we as Catholic educators permit the culture of death to flourish when we know in our conscience that this is antithetical to our life-giving vocations? And why do we insist that only the innocent deserve our love? Did Jesus not accompany the sinners? Did he not dine with prostitutes and tax collectors? Did He die in vain, crucified to a now meaningless cross where many share in His passion but not in His resurrection?
I pity the Church that has no memory of our God and no conviction in His love. But as you tell me to reflect, I see now: We are created in the image of God and if we know Him as punisher only, then we are bound to condemn sinners quicker than we are to smell the blood on our hands.
I pray for you, Cardinal Tagle. I pray that you find the courage you need to lead us. I already trust in the heart you bring to your mission. I have been moved by your tears and deep empathy for our people. But please, please, set your heart aflame! Allow Jesus to be seen, and be not afraid. I will stand by you, as many do, for as long as you stand by your people. Lead us back into the clarity of our faith and let us together heal what is broken.
Yours in friendship and communion in Christ.
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Nash Tysmans, 29, is a teacher and community worker.
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