By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“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 10:43-45
I was one of those millions who went to EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue)
during those four days of February 1986. I 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 dictatorship.
The EDSA revolution made our country tower over other nations worldwide.
It made us proud of ourselves. We had shown to the whole world that we are capable of ousting a dictator by people power in a non-violent way – something which other nations similarly situated would like to emulate. Today, however, the splendor of EDSA seems to be over. What is left of it is a bitter taste of betrayal.
If EDSA was not able to realize the dreams for which it was waged, the point is not to forget it, but to remember it well. If EDSA was betrayed, the point is not to betray it even more, but to stop betraying it. The fact that EDSA was not able to bring peace and prosperity to our people should not mean reviving Martial Law or adopting any of the authoritarian governments that abound in Asia. Rather, it should mean reviving the spirit of true democracy, the one that gives power to the people.
Keeping the memory of EDSA alive remains as vital a thing as ever. It may not always help us to arrive at our destination, 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 people and as a nation.
Biblical story 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 particular 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 up 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.”
This Biblical story is an important reminder for all of us even as we celebrate the anniversary of the EDSA revolution.
In the aforementioned Biblical story, there are two kinds of leadership Jesus is talking about. First is the leadership of rulers of this world. Jesus summarizes the leadership of rulers of this world 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.”
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 worshipped. His monuments were built in various strategic places in the empire, and people should bow down and worship him.
Anyone refusing to worship the emperor would be endangering his own life. Consequently, the emperor who was supposed to be the people’s benefactor would turn 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.
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 the EDSA Revolution.
If rulers of this world would exercise leadership by oppressing people, Jesus
says, “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.”
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 service. Perhaps, one of the reasons why we have conflicts among leaders in our society today is due to the fact that we often look at leadership more as an honor and privilege rather than as a responsibility and a service. Jesus reminds us that to be a leader is to be a servant.
The call before us, therefore, 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 aforementioned 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.
Humanly impossible community
Taking a closer look at the community of Jesus’ disciples would make us realize
that it is indeed a humanly impossible community. How would 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 the composition of the community of Jesus’ disciples. 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. The greatest challenge for us is to show to the oppressive leaders of this world this humanly impossible community that reconciles in itself the tensions and the conflicts of this world.
This is the 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. May we keep this spirit of EDSA alive in our hearts, in our dreams, and in our life together as one people. Amen.# nordis.net