Monday, September 1, 2008

Letter to a Cousin

My support for Obama made me write a rejoinder in our family e-group in response to a post of a reprint of a Pat Buchanan article why Catholics and evangelical Christians could not vote for Obama because of his support for Roe v Wade. I received a particularly sincere message from one of my cousins that was replete with quotations from the Bible. I was tempted to mischievously engage in selective quotation by citing Mt 19: 3-7, a passage where Jesus specifically proscribes divorce: “Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying, “is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” He said in reply, ”Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.” They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”

Instead, I began by telling a story about a woman who had washed clothes for a living for over 50 years and who was now fighting for her life in the hospital for what appeared to be a cerebrovascular bleed.

30 years ago, this woman found out she was pregnant with what would have been her third child. In her simple heart, she knew she was never going to be able to provide for this child and so she did what millions of Filipinas to this day do when they learn they are pregnant again: no, she did not go to a clinic, for that would have meant an expense she could not pay for. She went to a bazaar in Quiapo and bought a concoction containing quinine and started engaging in heavy physical exercise. In 3 days, her period returned but that episode has haunted me since. I can’t imagine how much more that continues to haunt her still, even in the deep recesses of a coma, because I agree with you *, as a sinner, who am I to judge what goes on in our own heart of hearts?

“Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribe and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.” Mt 23: 1-3.

I want to assure you * that despite the dehumanizing poverty so prevalent here in the Philippines, we try to pray often and do good works and try to follow the Lord’s way but there are very practical considerations we need to understand. If we don’t teach women what forms of family planning methods are available, how do we expect to decrease these unacceptably high rates of abortion? So while I am firmly opposed to abortion, I cannot in conscience claim that I am fulfilling the second greatest commandment of loving my neighbor as myself if I choose to remain quiet and smug in my comfortable circumstances with all the material and spiritual poverty swirling around me. Help me and help others try to find answers to these complex problems. What we have right now is not working. Pray for us.

Please be patient with this Liberal sinner. There will be rejoicing when people like me are found, just as the Shepherd gladly leaves his flock of 99 sheep in order to look for the solitary castaway. “Jesus was going through a field of grain on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the Sabbath.” Mt 12: 1-3 Jesus reminded them about the companions of King David, about how they ate the bread of offering at the temple. “I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Mt 12: 7-8


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