The WORD in other words (2023) by Fr Dionisio Miranda, SVD – Divine Word Seminary Tagaytay, Philippines
Palm Sunday / Passion Sunday – A
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Madaling maging tao, mahirap magpakatao. That saying captures the heart of Filipino ethics or our native understanding of good and bad, right and wrong, decent and obscene. Madaling maging tao admits that we are born as human beings without even having been asked to participate in that decision. We are simply products of our parents’ initiatives operating through the laws of biology and genetics.
In contrast, mahirap magpakatao stresses how we only become authentic human persons as a result of our decisions, based on deliberate choice, on conduct becoming of persons endowed with reason, conscience, and empathy. Character is our own responsibility, a project in the making finalized by death.
Culture teaches too that pagpapakatao is something we cannot do alone or in isolation. Children learn how to become human through socialization, interacting with peers and relating with various types of people. Becoming truly human is difficult and complex because of the many challenges we encounter – pagkakaiba in age, bodily form, social status, political leaning, sexual preference, religious affiliation, ethnic origin, skin color – anything that makes another appear unlike us: di tulad natin, ibang tao. Hence the struggle to find what unifies us all as fellow human beings, as di-ibang-tao kundi kapwa-tao.
Today’s account of the passion shows us how easily people can forget who they are and betray their humanity. Was Pilate’s action towards Jesus makatao when he abandoned Jesus to his enemies by declining to use his powers?
What was makatao about the soldiers when they stripped Jesus naked, mocked him as king with imitation purple, a crown of thorns, a scepter between tied hands, enjoying themselves individually and as a mob?
How makatao were the bulwarks of religion and advocates for morality as they trumped up charges and goaded the mob to release Barabbas instead of Jesus?
Was the crowd makatao when they screamed for Jesus to be crucified, cynically owning liability for his murder? Granting they were deeply scandalized by Jesus’ claim to be God’s Son or by his contrary views on observing the Torah, was that any justification for the chief priests, convicted rebels or passersby to dispense with their pagkatao so they could ridicule and insult Christ in his death-agony?
What was makatao in any of that? Indeed, one may ask, mga tao pa ba sila?
And yet, how often have we done better in similar situations even as bystanders? When a leader mocks his people as idiots for believing in his boast of bravado or gloat at violated women, when soldiers arrest lumad whose only crime is to seek education, when the obscenely rich profit from COVID misery, when lawmakers connive to legally shield “plundemics,” when the Supreme Court justifies wrong as right and right as wrong, when shameless spokespersons insult with their lies, or when Watchdogs circumvent accountability, how did we respond?
How deserving of respect are such Honorables? How worthy are we to be deemed makatao by our reactions – participating, approving, enabling, uncaring, unbothered?
Heartaches and reproaches in this season of pain, most specially for the Son of God who chose to become Son of man – naging tao – so Filipinos too could learn from his pagpapakatao as condition for being raised to his status as Son of God. Matuto sana tayong magpakatao upang nindi mawalang-saysay ang pagpapakatao ng Anak ng Amang Diyos.