Messengers of hope

Gospel Reflection

The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10 Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”  18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19 The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”
21 Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25 “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”
Luke 1:5-25 (NRSCVE)
Photo from The Peace Alliance.
Note: This reflection also came out today, 19 December 2016, in PCPR's BalikTanaw. For more reflections similar to this, please visit

When an angel came to Manoah’s barren wife to tell her that she was to bear a child, she went to her husband, excited, to tell him of the news. In contrast, when the angel Gabriel visited Zachariah in the temple to tell him that his elderly barren wife would bear him a son, he was doubtful until the angel took his voice from him. Back then, in Israel, a barren wife is a disgrace and since honor and name are serious matters for them, even more important than riches, we could only imagine the shame that they were experiencing, and their peacelessness. That is why, when the angel delivered the Good News from God, Manoah and his wife, and Zachariah and Elisabeth were more than happy, they were relieved. Finally they could show their face in public and join in the affairs of the community.

When President Rodrigo Duterte proclaimed that peace is one of his priorities, many doubted like Zachariah, after all, this has been the promise of so many presidents starting with Cory Aquino. Many were hopeful that because Cory owed her newfound power and authority to the sacrifices of the progressive people who fought for freedom, she would listen to them. Unfortunately she answered the people’s pleas with the Mendiola Massacre early in her presidency, where several farmers were shot at the doorstep of Malacañang! Her sham agrarian reform caused so much peacelessness to farmers, which led many people to believe that her rise to power was just about protecting the interest of her family with their Hacienda Luisita as the epitome of her fake agrarian reform dubbed CARP. The poor continued to suffer and increase in number, the workers remained exploited, and the farmers, landless. The gap between the rich and the poor dramatically widened. Will we ever experience peace? Many asked.
The peace that the people are hoping for is not just the absence of war and violence but shalom, the peace of God. Peace that means the absence of hunger, the absence of exploitation and oppression, the absence of worries and fears that what we have built with our sweat and blood would be reduced to rubble so that rich capitalists can build buildings that will never be used and occupied.
A glimmer of hope was actually felt when Fidel Ramos took over the presidency. Key agreements were signed including the Hague Joint Declaration that outlined the agenda of the negotiations; the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees for the negotiators of both parties; and the landmark agreement, the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in 1998. This was followed by empty promises, until just recently when a voice from the South spoke with authority, proclaiming peace in the land. With the election of Rodrigo Duterte as the country’s 16th president, hopes are high that the peace negotiations would once again gain momentum. Already, President Duterte is showing signs that he would indeed be true to his promise. What he lacks in decorum he makes up with his desire to prove his sincerity. And so he surrounds himself with credible people who also embody the people’s agenda. There is Ka Paeng Mariano of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Anakpawis as agrarian reform secretary, Judy Taguiwalo of Gabriela as social welfare secretary, ABS-CBN’s Gina Lopez as environment secretary, and Sivestre Bello III as labor secretary. There is also Liza Maza who now chairs the anti-poverty commission.
Despite the opposition of self-serving greedy politicians, the pro-people bloc in Duterte’s cabinet continues to bring the good news to the people, announcing the great jubilee not just with words, but with action. Ka Paeng promised land to the landless, and so now he fights for the distribution of Hacienda Luisita to the tillers. Prof. Judy provides solace to the poor, not just by promising to distribute relief packs during calamities but through empowerment. Sec. Bello, who also chairs the government panel in the peace process, on the other hand, is quick to put a stop to contractualization, and so on and so forth. Still with all these efforts, the peace process painfully staggers to the finish line, as powerful people continue to lobby against it. This time, government and the National Democratic Front are set to agree on a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms. This means they have to reach an agreement that would address socio-economic issues in the country.
This is the time, when we too have to fulfill our parts in defending pro-people agenda in the agreement and not just those that would promote the interest of businessmen and investors. We can do this by spreading the good news of the agreement and by becoming messengers of the peace talks. Let us be vigilant and promote an agreement that would genuinely bring socio-economic reforms, that means meaningful jobs for the jobless, sustainable livelihood for local small entrepreneurs, land for the farmers, support for our small fisherfolks, and so on and so forth. Let us not just give the message, rather, the message should be coupled with action.
We should not just be the courier of the message, we should be the message ourselves. Our very lives should reflect the message, the message of the Good News, of the salvation preached by Christ, of the great Jubilee when the debts are forgiven and land given to the farmers. When captives are set free, the blind, a given sight, relief to the oppressed, balm to the bruised. (Cf. Luke 4:19-20). Let us be messengers of hope. Let us be hope. 


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