VP Leni and the grace of office (2)
Part 1 and 2 of this piece were written last week before President Duterte hastily removed VP Leni Robredo from her post in the Inter-Agency Committee On Anti-Illegal Drugs (Icad). She had hit the ground running and had barely warmed her seat.
The President, often incoherent in his broadsides directed at what he perceives are his critics (and on so many other matters besides), has done it again. The peddlers of fake news and the army of trolls and their handlers who support Mr. Duterte and bash VP Leni should clamor for a bonus.
Last week, I shared the reflections of Jesuit Fr. Karel San Juan, president of the Ateneo de Zamboanga and author of “The ‘Grace of Office’: The Call of Leadership and Transcendence” that appeared in the Jesuit publication Landas. This was in relation to VP Leni’s acceptance — to her supporters’ surprise and the discombobulation of her vile detractors — of Mr. Duterte’s offer to her of cochairmanship of the Icad. Remember that the President, who recently described himself as aging and plagued by so many illnesses, had not given her any Cabinet position in the past and had decidedly left her out of the loop for more than two years.
With her acceptance, VP Leni will now have to sail forward and navigate the rough, drug-ridden waters, and she — and we — can only pray for the grace that will sustain her. That grace, in spiritual parlance, is called “the grace of office.”
Years back, I also sought the opinions/reflections of the spiritually and theologically inclined on the topic in relation to the newly elected President Benigno S. Aquino III at that time.
What they said could apply to any one, at any time, to any leadership position, fear and trepidation on the part of the elected or the appointed notwithstanding.
Said theologian Sister Amelia Vasquez, RSCJ: “I would go beyond Catholic boundaries. We can expand Calvin’s concept of vocation which erases the distinction between secular and sacred. That all calling is of equal spiritual dignity, and doing it with zeal and diligence is in itself a sign of God’s grace… So one’s confidence basically rests in God’s guidance, faithfulness and power, but because of the mandate from God, one also has confidence in one’s self.”
Vasquez reminded: “Politics deals with power, wealth, position and the multitude. The terrain is full of land mines. (You bet, in the case of VP Leni.—CPD) One can perhaps begin well and even be God’s anointed but because of disobedience to God, could be rejected and become self-destructive, like Saul in the Bible. Hence, the prayer to begin, continue and end one’s mandate fully given to carrying out the call of God, which always means having a clean heart, of being focused on the good of all, rather than on what one gets, on responding to the duty of the moment with honesty, transparency and the good of all.”
Christian evangelist Billy Graham, who had advised 12 US presidents from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, often quoted Micah 6:8: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Noted theologian Fr. Catalino Arevalo, SJ, reflected then but his reflections are relevant even now: “May we, with some certitude, discern some part of God’s plan working itself out here, in our contemporary history? Many of us do discern the offering of a ‘vocation-and-mission’ here, with the empowerment and grace which that implies.”
He clarified: “But this calls for a free acceptance of it in freedom and grace, the willingness to live out with hope and courage whatever it will demand, involving also a sought-after nearness to and reliance on God. This is what is asked of the recipient of the calling and mission.”
Parish priest Fr. Aris Sison quoted priest-saint Bernardine of Sienna (1380-1444): “Whenever the divine favor chooses someone to receive a special grace, or to accept a lofty position, God adorns the person chosen with all the gifts of the Spirit needed to fulfill the task at hand.”
And it goes without saying, the person called and chosen must be open and consciously respond to that grace.
VP Leni will prevail.
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