Seven months ago, I walked the city where Catholicism first docked, where venerating an image of Jesus was first introduced, and where a deep and widespread culture of religious practices and traditions had started some 490 years ago. Cebu City, the heart of the nation I fiercely love. They say that it is with the heart that we worship God. Thus, Cebu has become associated with worship. And what a man worships, he ultimately becomes. This statement is both amazing and terrifying to ponder on.
Today, I walk a city where landmarks are not limited to tourist hotels, spots with relaxing views of the sea, crab platter, satti and knickerbucker (local fruit salad) food joints — but public establishments where bombs have exploded, fire had erupted, or where innocent people have been massacred. It is not the violence that scares me though, but the acceptance and indifference that have grown towards the things that normally should grieve the heart.
When I watch a person go through the rituals of tradition that is not rooted in intimacy with his Creator, I see the same thing: Indifference. The indifference of pain shunned away and buried deep. However, it indefinitely shows on the person’s face. I see a hope that hopes against hopelessness, not a hope that hopes upon faithfulness. It is a hope that has rationalized a god’s silence, yet against all odds, goes through the motions, ‘hoping’ to gain what is desired, by some stroke or luck or miracle, whichever would prove itself true by coming first, hopefully before one dies, if not, maybe in the afterlife. My Jesus is grieved. Why should I not be?
My concern right now is not whether people do understand what I am saying. I know most of us who have experienced God, do understand. But my concern is that of how we respond after God skins our hearts and puts some flesh and compassion into our hearts that are hardened by selfish ambition. My concern is that, every day, we are being pulled into two directions. One is towards a place of indifference where we shun away the voice of a compassionate God. The other is towards a place of sacrifice, where the burdens would finally be translated into a change in lifestyle, if only to give more of our energies for the things that have the potential to bring radical change.
The latter is not easy. I am not talking about joining some “Cause” on Facebook or wearing a shirt that says that one is a drunkard drunk with the Holy Spirit. To shift the spiritual atmosphere of a city takes more than just a ‘desire’ to do so. Even attending prayer meetings would eventually (should eventually) lead a person to such a point of restlessness where he or she finally becomes the answer to his or her prayers.
It is not just the religious who have rituals. We Christians also have them. And regularly we need to check WHO our rituals glorify.
We HAVE to ask ourselves, to which direction are we allowing ourselves to be pulled right now? We MUST pull ourselves together.