December 21, 2009 in Featured
By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”— Proverbs 14:12
People have different reactions about this Advent and Christmas Season. For the numerous victims of Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, this season seems to be dark and gloomy, instead of being joyful and celebratory, due to death of loved ones, and destructions of properties and livelihood that would surely make life even more difficult.
Moreover, this season has brought us worldwide weeping and mourning for the brutal killings of at least 57 civilians and media people in Maguindanao. This is considered to be the worst media killing in the entire world history of mass media. Consequently, President GMA declared Martial Law in Maguindanao. But thank God, it was lifted after a few days of heated debates over its necessity, and it did not spread throughout the country as feared by many.
Thus, with all these developments, how could we joyfully celebrate Christmas? Nevertheless, the Christmas story continues to tell us that God has come to us in Jesus Christ our Lord to give us hope in the midst of hopelessness, light in the midst of darkness.
Matthew 2:1-12 talks about the story of the Wise Men from the East who visited the baby Jesus born in Bethlehem. From the story itself, we could glean at least two ways of life: Herod’s way of life, and the Wise Men’s way of life.
Our way of life is very important for as the Book of Proverbs says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”(Proverbs 14:12).
Herod’s Way of Life
Herod’s way of life could be described in two ways: First, it is the way of greed for power.
According to Biblical scholars, the Roman Emperor appointed Herod to be King of the Jews simply because he was the only one left among possible appointees to the throne. Herod himself was able to annihilate all other possible rivals. No wonder he was very much upset when he heard from the Wise Men that a baby was born to be King of the Jews. Herod would not allow anyone to succeed him to the throne.
And the Biblical story says that everyone in Jerusalem was also upset, because the people knew the ways of King Herod (v.3). They could almost anticipate the shedding of innocent blood.
The people were not mistaken. For not too long after that, cries of anguish were already heard in the neighboring towns of Bethlehem. Innocent children were massacred upon the orders of King Herod (v. 16).
The way of greed for power did not die with Herod’s death. Herod’s spirit is very much alive today. The gruesome massacre in Maguindanao would show to us the evils brought about by the greed for power. Indeed, Herod’s way of life seems to be right, but it leads to death.
Moreover, Herod’s way of life is the way of deception. According to the Scriptures, Herod called the Wise Men to a secret meeting, and gave them instructions, saying: “Go and make a careful search for the child; and when you find him, let me know, so that I too may go and worship him”(v.8).
King Herod projected himself to be a very pious, a very religious ruler. But deep within himself, he was actually plotting how to eliminate the Child who was supposed to be the object of his worship. In effect, Herod was trying to use religion to deceive the people and to satisfy his greed for power.
The use of religion for vested interest and political purposes is not new to us.
Politicians convicted of heinous crimes would usually carry the image of the Virgin Mary to show to the world that they are religious and therefore innocent of any wrong doing. Elections are again forthcoming. And surely, politicians would again seek the endorsement and blessings of religious leaders to advance their election bid.
The Wise Men’s Way of Life
On the other hand, the Wise Men’s way of life could also be described in two ways: First, it is the way of truth.
No doubt the Wise Men had been searching for truth. In fact, they had come all the way from the East in order to discover, to prove, and to see for themselves the truth that a child was born, indeed, to be the King of the Jews, as shown by the bright star in the East. This is probably the reason why they were called Wise Men, because to be wise is to know the truth and to uphold the truth. This is also what an educated person is all about. To be educated is to come to know the truth and to uphold the truth.
This is the best antidote to the way of life of people with the likes of King Herod. People who have come to know the truth and uphold the truth have better things to do in life than raping, and killing people.
This is the way of life of Efren Peñaflorida, the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year from Cavite City. He uses his education to teach poor street children in Cavite City, who could not afford to go to school. Using his Kariton Classroom, he goes around where the children are and teach them where they are.
Moreover, the Wise Men’s way of life is the way of giving and not of getting. The Wise Men went to Bethlehem not to grab for themselves the power of the child born to be King of the Jews, but rather to really worship him and offer him their gifts. Jesus, later on in his teaching ministry, said, “Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it” (Mt. 10:39).
This may sound paradoxical. But this is the very essence of Christian life. The mark of a genuine Christian is the ability to share what we are and what we have. As St. Francis of Assisi prayed, “For it is in giving that we receive. It is in dying that we are born to eternal life”.
A New Way of Life
As long as Herod’s way of life continues to influence our way of life as a nation and as a people, Advent and Christmas seasons may come and go, but things remain the same. There can never be real newness in our life.
Our hope as a people and as a nation lies in the way of life of the Wise Men from the East, for this is the way of God in Jesus Christ Himself – the way of truth, the way of giving. According to the story, the Wise Men “returned to their country by another road, since God had warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod.” (v.12)
Merry Christmas and a happy new year!# nordis.net