By REV. LUNA L. DINGAYAN
“You know that the those who are considered rulers of the heathen 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, you must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, you 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 .” — Mark 10:42-45
The EDSA Event
I was one of those millions who went to EDSA during those four days of February 1986 leading to the downfall of the Marcos Dictatorship. I went there not to take pictures, but to take side – the side of a people who suffered so long, but now regained its courage and determination to put an end to a well-entrenched dictatorship. It was indeed a very exciting and meaningful experience. It inspired other peoples of the world similarly situated to have their own peaceful revolution.
Today, however, the splendor of EDSA seems to have gone. All that is left is the bitter taste of betrayal. Nevertheless, as someone said if EDSA has not realized the lofty dreams for which it was waged, then the point is not to forget EDSA, but rather to remember it well. If EDSA has been betrayed, then the point is not to betray it some more, but rather to stop betraying it. The fact that EDSA has not brought peace and prosperity to our people should not mean reviving martial law or adopting any of the authoritarian governments that abound in Asia and elsewhere. Rather, it should mean reviving the Spirit of true democracy, the one that gives genuine power to the people.
Keeping the memory of EDSA alive remains as vital as ever. It may not always help us to arrive at our destination, but it will always help us know where we are now going or should be going as a people. EDSA is like a mirror on which we see ourselves as a people, as a nation and as leaders. It is a mirror for leadership.
Jesus and His Disciples
Our Biblical text is taken from the story of Jesus and his disciples as recorded in the Gospel According to Mark (10:35-45). Two of his disciples, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus one day, and requested from him something that we ourselves might also like to request if we were with Jesus at that time.
James and John said to Jesus, “When you sit on your throne in your glorious kingdom, we want you to let us sit with you, one at your right and one at your left.” In other words, the two brothers wanted to be first in God’s Kingdom. Indeed, they were like people today, who would approach politicians before election time to ask for favors in exchange for their votes.
When the other ten disciples of Jesus came to know about it, they became angry with James and John, probably because they too had that same desire to be first in God’s Kingdom. Apparently, Jesus was quite sensitive to the feelings of the twelve disciples. And so, he called them together and said to them, “You know that the those who are considered rulers of the heathen 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, you must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, you 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”
This, indeed, is a very significant reminder for us who are leaders or aspiring to become leaders.
Reminders for Leadership
Through our Scripture lesson, Jesus would like us to consider at least two things. First, how the rulers of the world exercise their leadership. Jesus summarized the description of how rulers of this world exercise their leadership when he said to his disciples: “You know that the men who are considered rulers of the Gentiles have power over them, and the leaders have complete authority.”
Biblical scholars tell us that Mark, the Gospel writer, lived at a time when Emperor-worship was widely practiced in the Roman Empire. The Emperor was believed to be divine. He desired to be worshiped by the people. Monuments of the Emperor were built in various strategic places and people must bow down and worship these images. Anyone who refused to worship the Emperor would be endangering his life. Thus, the Emperor who was projected to be the people’s benefactor turned out to be their oppressor.
In our contemporary history, emperor-worship has taken a new form. It has been shown in the form of a politico-religious cult that worships the god of national security. In reality, this politico-religious cult insures 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.
This god of national security is a savage and greedy kind of god. It devours human flesh. It demands human sacrifice. It thirsts for human blood. During the period of Martial Law, about 10,000 people had been jailed and tortured. Many had disappeared, never to be seen again. Since 2001 when Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power hundreds of innocent lives have already been sacrificed through political killings. The Melo Commission and the UN Reports through Prof. Philip Alston testify that the military has something to do with these killings.
This is how the rulers of this world exercise their leadership. They establish a cult around themselves. And through deception and armed force they forced people to worship and bow down before them. This was the kind of leadership that led to the EDSA Event.
The second part of Jesus’ reminder is even more significant. If the rulers of this world exercise leadership by oppressing people, our Lord Jesus Christ reminds us saying 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 of one of you wants to be first, he must be the slave of all.”
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 bloody conflicts between and among our politicians is because we often look at leadership more as an honor and privilege, an economic investment or a business enterprise, rather than a serious responsibility and servant hood. Our Lord Jesus Christ reminds us through our Biblical text that to be a leader is to be a servant.
Thus, the call of our time is for us Christians to show this servant leadership that could challenge the way the rulers of this world exercise the power and authority that the people bestowed upon them elections. #