AS MY way of wishing that we, this Easter season, rise to a new life of true godliness or, for Christians, a true following of Christ, I am sharing some lingering reflections on the Holy Week we just observed.
I like to define true godliness as the exact opposite of the practical godlessness God speaks of in Isaiah 29:13: “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. And their worship is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.”
The practically godless then honor God with sweet talk about love, not with acts of love, and worship Him by complying with man-made rules that the Judaic Church had plenty of. Practically godless Judaic priests condemned Jesus to death for violating the law of the sabbath and for calling out their hypocrisy of strict observance of the letter but not the spirit of the law.
St. Paul next tersely defined a true following of Christ in Galatians 5:13-14: “Use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole Law is summed up in this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
A true follower of Christ serves the neighbor. He/she worships Christ by serving and loving the neighbor as her/himself and not by complying, no matter how devotedly, with man-made laws of worship that notably abound in the Catholic Church.
Thus, amid the haze of accusations and counter-accusations against godless leaders and followers, one can make out many leaders and followers on both sides of the political divide that in fact qualify as practically godless by Isaiah’s definition.
Many Catholics, both leaders and followers, would also qualify as practically godless. At the risk of sounding righteous, I myself admit to extended periods in my life when I was practically godless or did nothing to help liberate victims of oppression.
In sum, belief in a deity and compliance with prescribed rituals do not define true godliness. Concrete acts of love towards the least of Christ’s brethren do.
Judging by the scandalous number of poor Filipinos, by the nation’s through-the-roof rate of criminality, and by the widespread greed and corruption of its political, business, and even religious leaders, it can be argued that we are a practically godless nation.
We have been made to believe in a false God and a wrong Christ who do not liberate but merely console suffering victims of injustice. The true God of love and the right Christ who died for us cannot possibly be the object of belief and worship of self-styled god-believers and Christ-followers who leave victims to starve or bleed to death on the roadsides of life.
Happy Easter. May the true God raise us up to true godliness and to a true following of the risen Christ.