P-Noy and ‘the grace of office’
WILL “THE grace of office” carry him through?
After Benigno Aquino III was proclaimed landslide winner in last year’s presidential elections, I did a page 1 article (May 23, 2010) on the so-called “grace of office” supposedly divinely bestowed on persons called to positions of power and responsibility. Their human frailties, imperfections and reluctance notwithstanding. The question was: Could P-Noy count on it?
I revisited that article and reflected on the opinions of theologians and religious persons I interviewed. They gave points worth pondering even now that the President has completed the first of his six years in office and is on an uphill climb to reverse the ills of years past and set the nation on the straight and narrow path. (And while being engaged in a joust by some church figures and pawed left and right by eternal malcontents.)
“The grace of office” has often been used in the context of a religious vocation, especially for those in leadership positions. Biblical times and contemporary history have seen ordinary persons rise to fulfill enormous tasks strengthened by their faith in the grace that would help them carry out their destiny. There were those who rose and fell, there were those who fulfilled their mission with humility and obedience.
Said theologian Sr. 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 landmines. 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: “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, this is what we believe is asked now of Noy.”
Fr. Aris Sison, pastor of the parish where P-Noy belongs, 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.”
Carmelite contemplative Sr. Teresa of Jesus, OCD (Josefina Constantino, former professor and columnist) opined: “No matter what negative criticisms have been hurled against the President, we know in pure faith that if he cooperates with God’s mercy and grace, God will be with him throughout his six years in office.”
She quoted St. Teresa of Avila’s definition of humility which is “walking in truth”: “If indeed Noynoy daily walks in truth and is totally obedient to God and the Holy Spirit, and with a pure heart be totally committed to bring about transformation, we could hope to become the country God has destined us to be for all eternity.”
Fr. Arnold Abelardo, CMF, chaplain of the Philippine Orthopedic Center who accompanied Noynoy in his sorties, saw for himself many “graced moments.” He cited Noynoy’s ability to be humble and receive and listen to all kinds of people.
“Noy did not have that lust for power. People say it is destiny. I say, it is providence. If it were pure destiny then Noy does not have to do anything, like the kings who ruled by birthright. Noy, in my simple understanding, was put in this position. I know Noy is connected to God. I had an inkling of this when, during the campaign, I would see him pray.”
Not everything is now up to the President alone, the priest said. “In rallies Noy always told the people, ‘Kayo ang aking lakas.’ (You are my strength.) He was accepting the job not by his own strength and energy but also by counting on the people’s support. He inherited a tainted government. We should continue to accompany this man.”
Theologian and lecturer Fr. Percy G. Bacani of the Missionaries of Jesus had this to say: “The substantial mandate accorded to Noynoy is a clear indication of the collective quest for accountable and just governance. Noynoy has an incorruptible and principled image. We have projected unto him the best in the Filipino and we want him to lead us along the path of liberation. We want him not to fail us, and to bring back the Edsa spirit so that Filipinos will become proud again. This is a tall order and we better do it together with him if we want his presidency to be a defining moment for our nation in search of redemption from massive corruption and poverty.”
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