HOLY WEEK REFLECTIONS
HOLY WEEK REFLECTIONS
By Joel Ferraris
By Joel Ferraris
This is an opportune time to focus our attention to the more important things that matter in life.
While the witches of Siquijor, as what has been told in stories even when I was younger, gather and make their magic potions during Good Friday to make them powerful because of their alleged belief that God is dead, what true believers in the Almighty God the Father must do is to examine the Holy Bible.
This is an opportune time to focus our attention to the more important things that matter in life.
Here's one story about Siquijor:
Herbalists scour Siquijor’s forests to cure the incurable
Part of the Gifts from the Holy Spirit is this: "(8) To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit," 1 Cor. 12:8
Equipped with this, a faithful believer cannot allow dubious beliefs to further ruin the gullible and weak in conscience and understanding who are also prone to become victims of the manipulations of dirty politicians.
Given the privilege to have education, the literate has to take time and effort to study the Holy Bible, with prayers of guidance from God the Father Almighty through His Holy Spirit, and impart their knowledge derived from this Spirit-guided study to others and, with a heart of a servant of the Almighty God the Father, try and help others avail of the infinite blessings only He could offer. And reflecting on the lives of the apostles of Lord Jesus Christ, who themselves are mostly simple people, the would-be disciples of today need to focus on the attainment of the purity of their hearts to please our Almighty God the Father who values this trait rather than outward looks no matter how visually impressive they seem to be.
“7 But the LORD said to Samuel, Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”1 Samuel 16
This is the answer to the problems that Filipinos are experiencing now in the midst of the renewed call to oust the perceived corrupt leadership while the poor majority wallows in poverty. In this time of what is considered as the most holy time of the year, the Holy Week, a newspaper editorial titled “Un-holy Week” plus lots of latest news and opinion columns present a disturbing picture of the current political, economic and social crisis as well as problems involving the religious in the country.
Most opinion columns and editorials I read never failed to mention verses from the Holy Bible when discussing and analyzing the current problems of our country:
The fact that the biggest Catholic laity group, the Couples for Christ, experienced a disturbing division by splitting into two groups: CFC and CFC-FFL . What followed was a lot of discussions here ( In Defense of the Real CFC) and here (Couples for Christ Foundation) and added pain on the existing but silent debilitating wound to many believers affected by the division.
But what is more disturbing was the opposing views of the CBCP in dealing with the current grave problems about corruption in the government that rocked the people of a majority Catholic country, prompting them to issue a statement that there is corruption in all levels of society.
The question is, why did it all come to this point - poverty amid corruption and vice versa? Of all the places, why the Philippines has become one of the most corrupt – a country that is majority Catholics equipped with all the safety nets in the form of moral and spiritual values?
What made these leaders corrupt and immoral? Or if they were falsely accused, what inspires their opponents and critics to relentlessly pursue such accusations? Are these critics honest, truthful and sincere in their mission? Are they well-equipped with integrity to cast the first stone? Were they sincerely repentant of grave personal sins that they were accused of or have secretly done in past that escaped public attention and justice?
And why is it that once people, even those said to have good moral standing and are perceived to be religious or God-fearing, as advertised by their election posters and adverts managed by their spin doctors, are prone to be corrupted once in power?
The next sets of questions are, are they morally and most of all spiritually equipped not to be corrupted once they assume office when in fact they are there to serve others? Were they molded correctly spiritually by their shepherds? Were the doctrines taught to them sound and free from errors? And are these doctrines based on what Lord Jesus Christ have taught in the Holy Bible?
Will the poor, just to escape squalor temporarily, accept bribes from politicians and the powerful that have evil intentions? And will they all, in the midst of pressing problems, kneel before a man-made image with expectant, long and repeated prayers? Can they differentiate clearly what is simple veneration from blatant worship of these images made by sinful hands?
Is it not then very important that people need to give importance first to their spiritual life before running for an office...they that were so privileged to have good education and can speak English well while the rest are being ridiculed for this disability?
Is it not most vital for people to understand their spirituality first and be sure to know the will of our Almighty God the Father, know Him well and understand Him better before they do anything to act in the midst of a crisis?
What about the fact that there exists opposing religious beliefs where what is wrong to some are right to others especially the use of hand-graven images?
And what then those institutions, like those fraternities in universities, that promised to mold students to become leaders did to set the right direction for these aspiring leaders? What guarantee, given the bitter rivalries they have with their enemy frats, that this organized groups will distance themselves from corrupt practices or take advantage of influence, connections and power once a member of theirs becomes a public leader?
Are we ready and willing to be herded again into other people power movements that have now turned into prayer rallies to oust another set of corrupt leaders once the existing ones are successfully ousted?
Are the ones who are strongly opposing now but are having unholy partnerships with their enemies to oust the ones in power also prone to be like what they so eagerly want to get rid of once they take the reigns of the government?
Has the Catholic Church failed gravely in leading its flock all these years? Have the sheep failed to follow their shepherds into the right path? Did all those teachings about the Words of our Almighty God the Father in the Holy Bible able to sink-in in and have won the hearts and minds of Filipinos despite the fact that we are surrounded with a lot of religious rituals, festivals and religious images to remind us of our faith? Or is it that because the Philippines is a country of believers, does it follow that it is the frontlines of the battle between the forces of our Almighty God the Father and the fallen angels led by Lucifer? The next more important question is, are Filipinos well-equipped with the full Armor of God the Father Almighty to fight and defeat evil?
Reading the views of two priests: "From Darkness to Light." and Jesus 'would not enter Vatican' and the fate of the Roman Empire:WHY CHRISTIANITY DID NOT ARREST THE RUIN OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE could somehow give us a glimpse why the Philippines is into this situation now. The fruit depends on the kind of tree.
We must realize that this is a battle not merely of human differences but a kind of persistent, subliminal and supernatural conflict orchestrated by unseen spiritual forces rebelling against our Almighty God the Father and His Kingdom.
To oust a corrupt leader is like killing one snake on the head of Medusa while the rest of the other serpents still actively wriggle and continue to thrive on the head of their host. How many would-be leaders are in reality, but in all subtlety, snakes in the making? And what or who keeps them to exist in darkness?
How many in this age of digital technology, and even those attending masses regularly, believe that evil spirits still exist today and are the forces behind these battles between good and evil?
Does and will modern man still believe in this reality that is clearly explained in the Holy Bible? Will they still believe that Judas Iscariot or even Peter was influenced by Satan?
Gone are the days, probably, of the likes of violent protests by left-leaning activists in Mendiola that peaked in a massacre during the rule of Cory Aquino. Strangely now, in dealing with the evils of society, especially the leadership perceived to be so corrupt and led by a leader whom they call “Evil Lady”, various groups who want her ousted devised a mixture of what seems to be sincere moves while some are clearly ridiculous means to drum-up support to get rid of her.
Some used physical exercise supposedly to “EXORCISE the EVIL in MALACANANG.” Yet they might not understand this: How to Cast Out Demons.
Others resorted to exhibitionism where young students, whose identities were hidden behind masks, run naked in one leading university of the country while the question whether this is a moral act remains: Oblation Run
Some used fasting publicly and running even when fasting is supposedly done in secret to avoid the dangers of hypocrisy.
Others tend to collaborate or be manipulated by groups with dubious intentions as in “let’s unite now and I’ll deal with you later.” Still others exhibited what strong influence did science fiction movies like Star Wars on them when wishing the best of luck to a whistle-blower whom they called a Pinoy Jedi in one senate hearing: Rodolfo ‘Jun’ Lozada: Pinoy Jedi Knight
But are these ways the right approach to fight evil? Are they morally or spiritually correct? Are they aware that what they were doing might be just part of the hidden agenda of the devil to distract people’s attention from the real problem and divert them from their path towards the Kingdom of our Almighty God the Father?
Michael Ovey writes:
"It is, no doubt, possible to perceive that one is supernaturally enslaved. C. Arnold suggests that the world of hostile supernatural powers was all too visible to the inhabitants of Asia Minor,  a view paralleled by some missionary descriptions of animist attitudes in Papua New Guinea. It is equally possible to be enslaved and be unaware of it. The question must be faced whether this better describes the modernised West, where perceptions of reality are so strongly shaped by powerful visual media, and values readily situated in a life of wealth and health, a carnival culture, to paraphrase Mikhail Bakhtin.  This too is an apt continuation of Genesis 3, and highlighted by Jesus' depiction of Satan as the ultimate liar (John 8:44) and the ‘false' believers there as liars too (John 8:55). But in vanquishing a person's idolatry, Jesus vanquishes a covert demonolatry, a victory indeed." Idolatry and Spiritual Parody: Counterfeit Faiths
Michael Ovey further writes about Idolatry and Harlotry and Idolatry, Demonolatry and the Victory of Christ.
The problems happening in the Philippines are not simply material or economic in nature. The mere fact that religion is intertwined with animist and pagan practices makes the situation even worst. And idolatry of all sorts, stemming from the use of hand-graven images, is one very serious problem strongly opposed and criticized by Bible-based Christian groups.
The rituals of sorcerers and the amulets of faith healers and quack doctors are just some examples of idolatrous tools and practices. I could attest to that in the several amulets given to me in the past by various disciples of counterfeit spirituality and I threw them all away even before I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. They come in many forms from handkerchiefs with strange drawings and allegedly Latin symbols said to have magic spells to medallions and small bottles containing "holy" oil complete with a tiny crucifix inside. There are those with drawings of a triangle with an eye in the middle.
I’m not so sure about the extent of the power of these amulets but they were tested by a famous sharp shooter: Time to test Anting-antings
I have witnessed too a woman who was using one amulet given to her by a faith healer yet she was possessed by Satan once the medallion was removed from her chest. The cunning of the devil made her cling to the medallion for protection – a clear practice and evidence of idolatry. When our pastor asked the evil spirit who he is he answered he is Satan and he is mad because the woman is already his yet she is being converted to the side of our Almighty God the Father.
What then does this clear example of the use of hand graven images or objects tell about idolatry and the strong influence of the evil one? And there are a lot more stories to tell, including psychics who are clear liars and deceivers just wanting money from their victims.
My resistance to these things became more reinforced after I received the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit that even in my dreams I battle demons, vampires, sorcerers and dark forces while I rebuke them strongly that only God the Almighty, Living, Holy and Eternal Father is the One to be worshipped, adored and loved above all.
When I was younger, a college student who just transferred to Manila from Iloilo City, Philippines, I was stopped by a mean-looking man in Cubao in Quezon City. He said that he has a gift for me and he handed me something wrapped in a piece of newspaper that he got from his shoulder bag. I asked him what it was and he said, “Open it, it’s my gift to you.” I was surprised to see a small Santo Nino or Baby Jesus made of plaster of Paris and, as a Catholic then, I said thank you…feeling happy for his kindness despite the fact that he is a stranger. But after taking the “gift”, he asked for a donation. I gave him 1 peso because I was still a poor student then but he complained and demanded that I give him 20 pesos. That was in 1978. So I argued that a donation must be voluntary but he insisted. So I angrily returned that religious object to him!
Idolatry and Lie, another topic of Michael Ovey's paper fits the picture of what's happening in the Philippines right now. In my country, where the use of hand-graven images goes along well with the existing animistic beliefs and pagan past, recent issues revolving around the search for truth amid blatant lies about corruption are a big question to a people so religious by the visible practices of using hand graven images yet so prone to malpractices or the manipulations of corrupt politicians using people power to make puppets out of the gullible.
History could attest that the past has seen a pagan Rome freely practicing idol-worship but soon Christianity became a redeeming faith. Yet the growing presence of sincere followers of Lord Jesus Christ who welcomed the worship in Spirit and adoration of and to love for His Father, our Almighty God the Father, was not able to rescue the Roman Empire from its ruin.
In CHAPTER XIII - WHY CHRISTIANITY DID NOT ARREST THE RUIN OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE.
John Lord wrote:
“One of the most interesting inquiries which is suggested by history is, Why Christianity did not prevent the glory of the old civilization from being succeeded by shame? This is not only a grand inquiry, but it is mysterious. We are naturally surprised that literature, art, science, laws, and the perfect mechanism of government should have proved such feeble barriers against degeneracy, for these are among the highest triumphs of the human mind, and such as the world will not willingly let die. But a still more potent and majestic influence than any thing which proceeds from man still remained to the haughty masters of the ancient world. A new religion had been proclaimed with the establishment of the empire, which gradually broke down the old superstitions, conquered the hatred and prejudices of both Greeks and Romans, supplanted the old systems of Paganism, and went on from conquering to conquer, until it seated itself on the imperial throne, and proved itself to be the wisdom and the power of God.
“But we see that as this wonderful religion gained ground, whether in changing the lives of individuals, or in allying itself with dominant institutions, the Roman Empire declined. When Christianity was first proclaimed, the Roman eagles surmounted the principal cities of antiquity, and the central despotism on the banks of the Tiber was the law of the world. When it was a feeble light on the mountains of Galilee, the glory of Rome was the object of universal panegyric, and the city of the seven hills rejoiced in a magnificence which promised to be eternal. But when Paganism yielded to Christianity, and when the latter had spread to every city and village in the empire, with its grand hierarchy of bishops and doctors, the proud empire was in ruins. It would even seem that its decline and fall kept pace with the triumphs of a religion it had spurned and persecuted.
“What is the explanation of this grand mystery? Why should society have declined as Christianity spread, if, as we believe, Christianity is the great conservative force of the world, and is destined to regenerate all government, science, and social life? If the stability of the empire rested on virtues, and was undermined by vices, virtue must have declined and vice increased. But how can we reconcile such a fact with the progress of a religion which is the mainspring of all virtue, and the destruction of all vice? We do know that Christianity did not prevent the empire from falling, but also we have the testimony of poets and historians to the exceeding wickedness of society when Christianity was fairly established.”
Given this example and lesson from history, will the Filipinos’ dream of having a strong nation come true? Is there then a parallelism to what happened in Rome in the past and what’s happening in the Philippines now? Or is it likewise a mystery why despite the fact that majority of the population are Catholics, believers in the church as the body of Christ, became embroiled in corruption in all levels of society?
The picture seem to be a clear opposite of Rome, which got rid of paganism to officially embrace Christianity, yet a clear depiction of the product of an old system that re-embraced or has not really got rid of pagan practices but blended it with Christianity.
The Philippines is majority a Catholic country and the use of images are publicly allowed and encouraged. After the success of People Power 1 in Edsa a statue of Mary was erected as a symbol. I’m not sure to what purpose was it. It could be to thank God the Father Almighty for that freedom from the 20-year rule of Marcos and the restoration of democracy which draws a parallel picture with the freedom of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt when they made that Golden Calf to worship and thank YAHWEH.
Moreover, just recently, a popular healing priest is reported to have attracted a lot of people for miracle cures yet there was rumor that a fund-raising campaign was using his prayer sessions to raise funds for the construction of a gigantic, 33-storey high, statue of Mary somewhere in Luzon to rival the Statue of Liberty or the image of Jesus Christ perched on the mountain-top in Brazil. The fund-raisers was shown on TV as demanding no less that 200 pesos minimum donations from people.
All these actions prompted a group claiming to have the gift of prophesy to warn that this project, should it materialize, will become the downfall of the Philippines.
The lesson that was Edsa 1 saw that People Power 1 fizzled-out into merely a succession of dwindling street protests of opposing factions that morphed from a united force to topple a dictator to scattered protests actions or prayer rallies backed by men of the cloth with opposing views.
Is there not a parallelism here between the fate of the Israelites under the Pharaoh and that of the Filipinos under Marcos? And is there likewise another parallelism between the freed Israelites building the golden calf and the Filipinos erecting the statue of Mary in Edsa?
Although Rome used to be pagan and its symbols were of pagan origins the latter introduction of Christian images replacing pagan idols seem to show a culture rescued from the claws of paganism. But the wrong belief that since the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst men and Lord Jesus Christ was a visible person of flesh and blood allowed the use of hand graven images to be used and venerated has dangerously exposed the most gullible and unsuspecting believer into the dangers of idolatry?
Despite the defense of the Catholic Church of the use of hand-graven images as objects to remind the faithful of their faith as akin to family members being reminded of their love ones with the use of photographs, still the mere fact that a thorough Christian education to all the people, especially the grassroots prone to or are disciples of animism, is increasingly absent makes the problem about idolatry unchecked.
This questionable belief is made more confusing by the popular belief that Mary is a co-intercessor and, with pictures of Mary alongside Lord Jesus Christ, prompted one pre-baptism seminar lecturer to remind people that while Mary is Mama, Jesus is not Papa but only Kuya or older brother. So I asked, “how come the priests are called Father?”
This and all other factors presented above has diverted the attention of people from the very essence of the message of Lord Jesus Christ when, instead of focusing on God the Father Almighty’s Words in the Gospels by Lord Jesus Christ and the mission to bring the Good News of Salvation to the people and let them be part of His Kingdom people seem to be more distracted by a lot or ritualistic practices and long-repeated prayers.
The recent admission of a priest of the dwindling number of church-goers in the Philippines, despite the fact that Filipinos caused the church elsewhere in the world to be repopulated by their mere presence especially in the church choir, reveals a picture of an existing problem about spiritually educating people thoroughly. And even the laity group Couples For Christ, supposedly to aid in spreading the Gospels with its comprehensive approach to evangelization, including values formation targeting all levels of society, wasn’t spared from factionalism. CFC itself, under the Catholic Church, cannot or refuse to address the issue about hand graven images some of which are clearly visible in Gawad Kalinga villages.
So, here is the massive work for the poor to alleviate their plight. But is it not that a serious question remains: if idolatry, starting from the practice of the use of hand graven images, is still a very serious issue confronting a believer in God the Father Almighty through Lord Jesus Christ and a sure cause of other forms of corruption, will this be given serious attention and consideration when looking at the present case about the Philippines and in arresting completely its problems? If idolatry is hated by a jealous Almighty God the Father, will He listen to our cries if we continue to rebel against His will by the continued use of these objects of worship?
The entry of church homilies into popular multi-media like Youtube is seen as a new tool in evangelization. But this is just merely a new arena continuously spreading a usually tainted doctrine with the use of hand-graven images as an existing issue and whereby other Christian groups that are Bible-based clearly oppose.
Not content with just presenting King Hezekias moves to rid the Almighty God the Father’s people of idolatrous practices in support of the many verses in the Holy Bible against idolatry, I will add here the article written by Ernst Martin: Lingering Idolatry in the Temple of God.
Despite the belief that the Catholic Church is the real body of Christ and has the fullness of the Gospel, why is it that the CBCP in the Philippines is clearly divided and its clergy strongly reacting to its present stand regarding the current crisis in the country? REPLY TO THE CBCP STATEMENT:WE HAVE LONG KNOWN THE TRUTH:
As a final thought…by looking and observing what’s been happening, it is the fight against evil that is now actively being fought in my country and clearly it isn’t just a material one. Materially, people quarrel because of huge amounts of money being stolen from the people by their leaders. But in closer look, if because of the fact that the love for money is the root of all evil and the evil results that goes with stolen money could surely victimize the stealers and their families, will the citizenry who are mostly believers and Catholics, not be concerned with the welfare and the souls of their corrupt leaders instead of simply getting justice? If they are the ones being wronged, and they are spiritually and morally clean, then they are on the safe side as in the side where the sheep belong while the corrupt are in the side where the goats are? Is this not a lot disturbing if our neighbors fall into the snare of Satan while we so angrily want vengeance?
And isn’t it the right thing to do that we need to examine more if our link to our Almighty God the Father, with Lord Jesus Christ as the only mediator, is strong that by just praying He will hear us and let us out of this mess we are in? But first we have to consider if the Parable of the Sower has reached an important place into our hearts and minds and to be prepared for the harvest.
Otherwise this is just simply a battle about worldliness between worldly men and women.