Weekly Reflections: Freedom beyond death

By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
www.nordis.net

“And you, Daniel, be faithful to the end. Then, you will die, but you will rise to receive your reward at the end of time” — Daniel 12:13

The Great Plebian

November 30 is Bonifacio Day. It is a day to remember a man who offered his life in the pursuit of genuine freedom for our country and people. This man is no other than Andres Bonifacio, the Great Plebian, who was unfortunately betrayed by his own fellow Filipinos in the course of a shameful struggle for leadership in the revolutionary movement against the Spanish colonizers. Historians are saying that he was the first Asian to rise up against the tyranny of Western colonization.

Genuine freedom is never cheap; it is very costly. It is costly because it requires the death of many freedom-loving people. It is not given on a silver platter; it has to be struggled for. A freedom that is not paid by the shedding of martyrs’ blood is fake. It is pretentious. It is like the pirated CD’s sold in the streets. It is cheap, but lacks quality. It is like the freedom given to us by the Americans in 1946. They gave us our independence, but they kept with them their military bases and their parity rights!

Daniel and his friends

In the Old Testament Scriptures, we read about a man named Daniel and his friends named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (cf. Daniel 3). They were examples of genuine freedom in the midst of sufferings and persecutions. They claimed their freedom to worship Yahweh their God as well as the freedom not to worship other gods, like the gods of the Babylonians. Even with the threats of being thrown into a lion’s den or a burning furnace, still they stood courageously on their faith. Historically, the Israelites suffered so much in the hands of the Greek colonizers, especially during the time of the Seleucid ruler Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 BCE).

Antiochus Epiphanes had claims to divinity. He imposed Hellenism to the Israelites, issuing a decree revoking the Law of Moses as the official law and replacing it with Hellenistic law. He even burned the Torah and built a pagan altar in front of the Jerusalem Temple. All these things gave rise to a resistance movement led by an Israelite priest named Mattathias, and later on, by one of his five sons named Judas Maccabeus. The latter led the famous Maccabean Revolt that ultimately restored independence to the Israelites.

This is the historical context of the Book of Daniel. The main characters in the book, Daniel himself and his friends are examples of people who possess deep trust and hope in God and what God can do. They are people whose freedom to worship God and to follow God’s will cannot be taken away from them even by a tyrannical ruler. Obviously, our most powerful weapon against tyranny is our unshakable faith in God and what God can do in and through us.

Freedom and Humanity

In the Bible, freedom is God’s precious gift to his creation (Cf. Gen.2). God created us in freedom and to live in freedom. To be human is to be free. Freedom defines our humanity. When tyrannical rulers deprived us of freedom, they also deprived us of our humanity. When we lost our freedom, we also lost our humanity.

Hence, God does not like human beings to be enslaved. Through Moses, God set the Israelites free from slavery in Egypt (Cf. Ex. 3). Through Jesus Christ our Lord, God sets us free from the slavery of sin. Through Mattathias and his sons, God accompanied the Israelites in their struggle for independence. Indeed, the struggle against any form of slavery is God’s own struggle. God is with those who fight for freedom. For God is the God of freedom.

Freedom and death

The writer of the Book of Daniel believes that those who died for the cause of freedom will again rise to life. They will conquer death. The Book says, “And you, Daniel, be faithful to the end. Then, you will die, but you will rise to receive your reward at the end of time” (Dan. 12:13). When the doctrine of resurrection was first introduced in the Old Testament, it was first meant for those who died in the struggle for freedom. It simply means that those who died in the struggle for freedom will live again as their nation will be set free and their people will again live in freedom. Hence, their death is never in vain; their death is a victory and not a defeat.

Andres Bonifacio and all those who died like him in the struggle for our country’s freedom continue to live today as long as we treasure freedom and live our lives in genuine freedom. Genuine freedom is the freedom to do something good, and not to do evil. Genuine freedom is coupled with responsibility.

But the martyrs of freedom could also be betrayed even in death, if we misuse and abuse the freedom for which they had shed their own precious blood. Historians tell us that Andres Bonifacio was betrayed in life. As a matter of fact, he was murdered by his own comrades in the Katipunan. He was a victim of leadership struggle within the revolutionary movement against the Spanish colonizers. But he could also be betrayed in death, if we do not learn our lessons and do not treasure the freedom for which he gave his life. # nordis.net

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