Weekly Reflections: Spirit of EDSA


“If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, you must be the slave of all.” — Mark 10:43-44

Remembering EDSA

Pearl and I were among millions on Epifaño de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) during those four days of February 1986. We went there not to take pictures, but to take sides with our people who suffered so long and now determined to put an end to a well-entrenched Marcos Dictatorship. Today, however, the splendor that is EDSA seems to be over, leaving a bitter taste of betrayal.

As one writer said, if EDSA had not realized the dreams for which it was waged, the point is not to forget it, but to remember it well. If EDSA had been betrayed, the point is not to betray it some more, but to stop betraying it. The fact that EDSA had not brought peace and prosperity to our people should not mean reviving Martial Law or adopting any of the authoritarian governments that abound in the Third World. Rather, it should mean reviving the spirit of true democracy, the one that gives power to the people.

Keeping alive the memory of EDSA remains vital as ever. It may not always help us to arrive at our destination as a nation, but it will help us to know where we are going or should be going as a people. EDSA is like a mirror on which we see ourselves as a nation and as a people.

Jesus on Leadership

There is an interesting Biblical story about two of Jesus’ disciples, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who came to Jesus one day with a request (cf. Mk.10:35-45). They asked Jesus to let them sit with him when he would sit on his throne in his glorious Kingdom, one at his right and one at his left. The two brothers are like people today who would approach politicians before election time to ask for favors in exchange for their votes.

When the other ten disciples came to know about it, they became angry with James and John, probably because they, too, had the same desire. Apparently, Jesus was sensitive to the feelings of the twelve disciples. He called them together and said to them, “You know that the men who are considered rulers of the gentiles have power over them, and the leaders have complete authority. This, however, is not the way it is among you. If one of you wants to be great, he must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, he must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served; he came to serve and to give his life to redeem many people.” (Mk. 10:42b-45).

This Biblical story is an important reminder for us even as we celebrate the anniversary of the EDSA Revolution of 1986.

Oppressive Leadership

There are two kinds of leadership mentioned in this Biblical story. First is the leadership of rulers in this world. Jesus describes this kind of leadership in this manner: “You know that the men who are considered rulers of the Gentiles have power over them, and the leaders have complete authority.” It is an oppressive kind of leadership.

Biblical scholars tell us that Mark the Gospel writer lived at a time when emperor-worship was widely practiced. The emperor was believed to be divine. He desired to be worshipped. His monuments were built in various strategic places and people should bow down and worship him. Anyone refusing to worship the emperor would be endangering his life. Consequently, the emperor who was supposed to be the people’s benefactor turned out to be the people’s oppressor.

In our contemporary history, emperor-worship takes a new form. It is shown in the form of a politico-religious cult that worships a political god popularly known as the god of national security. This politico-religious cult ensures not the security of the nation, but the security of the ruling powers. It enhances not the security of the people, but the security of the powers-that-be.

The god of national security is a savage and greedy kind of god. It devours human flesh. It demands human sacrifices. It thirsts for human blood. During the period of Martial Law, about 10,000 people were jailed and tortured. Many disappeared, never to be seen again. In the present war against illegal drugs, thousands are reported to have already been killed.

This is how rulers of this world exercise leadership. They establish a cult around themselves. Through deception and armed force they make people worship and bow down before them. This is the kind of leadership that led to EDSA.

Servant Leadership

If the rulers of this world would exercise leadership by oppressing people, Jesus said to his disciples: “This is not the way it is among you. If one of you wants to be great, he must be the servant of the rest, and if one of you wants to be first, he must be the slave of all.” Leadership in God’s Kingdom is a servant leadership.

This does not mean that we should not seek what is high and excellent. Jesus acknowledges our yearning for excellence, but he directs it towards a new goal – the goal of servant-hood.

Perhaps, one of the reasons why we have conflicts on leadership in our society today is due to the fact that we often look at leadership more as an honor and privilege rather than a responsibility and servant-hood. Jesus reminds us that to be a leader is to be a servant.

The call before us is to show servant leadership that could challenge the way leaders of this world exercise their power and authority. It is very significant to note that the expression “among you” in the Biblical story is repeated at least three times. The expression refers to Jesus’ disciples. Jesus challenged the current ways of thinking by creating this new community of disciples.

Taking a closer look at the community of Jesus’ disciples would make us realize that it is indeed a humanly impossible community. How could a former collaborator of the Romans live together with people who are members of the resistance movement? How could somebody known in high priestly families live together with people from among the poor of the land? But this is exactly the composition of the community of Jesus’ disciples. This is precisely the composition of the church, the body of Christ.

And so, in the midst of a sick society, Jesus inserts this cell of healing composed of agents of reconciliation, animated by the spirit of service.

As believers and followers of Christ, the greatest challenge for us, therefore, is to show to the oppressive rulers of this world that humanly impossible community characterized by faith, hope and love that reconciles in itself the tensions and the conflicts of this world.

This is the true spirit of EDSA. It is present where people strive to surmount a tragedy, to confront injustice, or to fight oppression. It is present where people show courage, honor, and self-sacrifice for the sake of the common good. May the spirit of EDSA remain alive in our hearts, in our dreams and visions, and in our life together as one nation and one people; for I do believe that it is the same Spirit of God that animates our Christian life and witness in Christ Jesus our Savior and Lord. Amen. # nordis.net


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