Gospel of Hope According to Juan/a
Launched last week was the book “The Gospel of Hope According to Juan/a,” real-life stories by Bishop Pablo Virgilio S. David and Nina L. B. Tomen and six guest storytellers. It is published by The Storytellers Society.
David is popularly known as Bishop Ambo of the Caloocan Diocese (Caloocan, Malabon and Navotas). He must be among the bishops that President Duterte wants to see “killed” because of their strong stance against extrajudicial killings and the President’s bloody drug war. David’s diocese has been in the crosshairs of assailants, either uniformed or masked, that operate with near-impunity.
“The Gospel of Hope” is the third in a trilogy. The first was “The Gospel of Love” and the second “The Gospel of Mercy,” also “according to Juan and Juana,” the Filipino Everyman/woman. (There will be a fourth, I am told.)
The Gospel according to Juan/a series explores the nature of hope and hopelessness through storytelling. Gabriel Marcel’s “Sketch of a Phenomenology and Metaphysics of Hope” is juxtaposed with biblical passages in framing these collections of “true to life” stories and personal essays, the authors add.
The little stories in this new volume show that there is always a glimmer, if not a big ray, of hope even in unlikely situations. Says my blurb on the back cover:
“Jesus told a lot of stories. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, psychoanalyst, post-trauma specialist and author of ‘The Gift of Story,’ writes that ‘stories can teach, correct errors, lighten the heart and the darkness, provide psychic shelter, assist transformation and heal wounds.’ And, it goes without saying, give hope. Stories hold magic. Though many pieces in this book start off dripping with pathos, they end with amazing hopefulness, thanks to the storybarers/tellers — the Juanas and the Juans — who saw through the pain and the darkness and caught the distant spark.”
The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991, a deadly supertyphoon, watching a loved one in the throes of death in the ICU, a student about to end her life, an overseas Filipino worker at 35,000 feet, families of victims of extrajudicial killings—these are some of the personal stories of the writers themselves. There are stories, too, about other people as told by those who had listened and written them for us to read.
A special story is about the “Nightcrawlers,” the photojournalists and journalists who continue to stalk the night and record the merciless slaying of drug suspects and innocents, the handiwork of those who roam and kill with impunity.
And there is “The Repentant Killer,” as told by Bishop Ambo, who sought out a priest, Father Noel (not his real name), to speak to him “…about my job. I can’t go on with it anymore.” The priest asked: “What is your job?” The man answered: “I kill people, Father.”
Bishop Ambo got to meet the repentant killer, who said he was scheduled to kill someone that same day. To make a long story short, a man who seemed to fit the description of the repentant killer was killed not long after.
As fellow “blurber” and Inquirer columnist Michael Tan writes: “We are a nation that has had to live with murderous impunity, the bloody deaths driving individuals and families into grief and despair. ‘The Gospel of Hope’ offers us an alternative. Taking us by our hand, Bishop Ambo shows how we might reflect on the tragedies, the travails of our lives, and yet find meaning and the courage to hope.”
From Brother Armin Luistro, FSC: “Once you decide to enter the scene, you will be graced with the power to complete the story.”
The book’s cowriter Nina Tomen reflects: “Light filters through tiny cracks and illumines the darkest and ugliest circumstances described in these stories.”
And amen to Bishop Ambo when he says: “In the end, hope is founded on the religious conviction that evil cannot possibly be more powerful than good, or death more powerful than life. It is to refuse to give evil the last say.”
The book sells at P280 at the San Roque Cathedral in Caloocan. Call 0917-5080302. Twenty percent of sales will go to the Gift of Hope Project, a dance and music workshop for the healing of children who have been exposed to violence and other traumatic experiences. Your gift will go beyond Christmas.
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