Online Newsletter Nr. 198
Philippine Community
The Word in other Words

Temper justice with mercy:
Homily of Fr. Jun de Ocampo, SVD
(delivered on the Fourth Sunday of Advent)
Heilig-Geist-Kirche, Bayernallee, Berlin

"I Have Come So That They May Have Life And Live It More Abundantly” (John 10:10)

My homiletics professor would often tell us what makes a very good sermon:

"Comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable.”
In this sermon – exactly one week before we celebrate Christmas – allow me to disturb the comfortable. We Filipino migrants here in Germany, are enjoying relatively a comfortable and secure life, thanks to the good economic, social and cultural environments we find in this country. This is one dream of every Filipino in the Philippines – to live abroad. Wherever we are, however, our thoughts over the Philippines will always accompany us. Just last year, at about this Sunday, we were all disturbed about the report of 6,000 people killed overnight by just one super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan international name) that hit the Philippine shores on the first week of November last year. Today, 6 months after the newly elected President of the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte took office, while waging a brutal war on drugs, it is reported:

6,000 people were killed
– all alleged drug traffickers, dealers and drug users –
killed by state forces or pro-government vigilantes.

The president personally admitted having killed suspects himself. There is reportedly an average of 1,000 killings every month. The report of the PNP (Philippine National Police, as of Dec. 12) is that more than 3,500 are unexplained killings, more than 2,500 still under investigation, about a thousand simply suspects. And the numbers of killings every week are still counting. The world-wide New York Times released a documentation of these killings entitled

"They are Slaughtering Us Like Animals”.
We term these killings as: EJK – extrajudicial killings.
Last week, the justice panel in the lower house of Congress approved a legislation to re-impose death penalty. The government wants to pass it before Christmas. A prayer issued by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, is being read in all churches in Manila today and called for help to work against the passing of the death penalty bill. Cardinal Antonio Luis Tagle told Radyo Veritas,

"Ang Diyos ay Diyos ng buhay kaya dapat alagaan ang buhay.
Pero marami ang worried sa EJK. At dapat lang."
(God is a God of life so we need to protect life. But many are worried about EJK. And rightfully so.) He calls on the faithful to value human life and shun a "culture of death.” The most vocal of Filipino bishops, Archbishop "Soc” Villegas, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) released a very strong statement against the bloody anti-drug war and said,

"From a generation of drug addicts, shall we become a generation of street murderers?" He argued, "If drugs indeed kill, will killing the suspects remove the menace? Are we providing our children a safe haven, by teaching them by our tolerance of murders, that killing suspected criminals without fair hearing is a morally acceptable way to eradicate crime?”
Photo taken by Kay Albaño at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Another strong voice, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said,

"Ang extrajudicial killings ay paggawa ng bagay na hindi ayon sa batas. 'Yan ay krimen. Kaya hindi mababawasan ang krimen sa pamamagitan ng paggawa ng krimen."
Pabillo said in a Mass to pray for victims of extrajudicial killings. (To do extrajudicial killings is to do something that is against the law. That's a crime. We cannot suppress crime by committing another crime.) Referring to the victims of these killings, he said, "Tao pa rin 'yun." (They're still humans.) "Kahit na totoo na sila ay drug pusher at nakagawa ng masama sa ibang tao, paano naman ang kanilang mga pamilya? Sila rin ngayon ay ginawan ng masama," he said. (Even if it's true that they're drug pushers and they did something wrong to other people, what about their families? They themselves have been done wrong.)

The bishop asked, "Maitutuwid ba natin ang masama sa pamamagitan ng masama?” (Can we correct evil by doing evil?)
What all these leaders of the Church are saying is exactly what Pope Francis had been telling the world. He is calling for a renewed culture of nonviolence in global politics today, saying that violence only breeds even more violence and the only way to truly end the cycle is to stop it. Our Gospel today tells us of Joseph who was engaged to be the husband of Mary. He found out that Mary was with child before their official marriage. He knew that he was not the real father. As a good Jew, the law obliged Joseph to report Mary to the authorities who, in cases as this, would hand down judgment for Mary to be stoned to death. This was the Law of Moses. Out of justice, Mary had to die. But Joseph thought it over with care and concern for Mary's life.

To have care and concern for the other person is called mercy. Justice is important and necessary, but there are very delicate situations when justice have to be tempered by mercy. These are situations where the life of a person is put on the spot. This is the way of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Tempering justice with mercy. And we just finished the Holy Year of Mercy. Our God is God of life. It was He who gave life and only He has the right to take it away. "Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign LORD. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live.” (Ez. 18:23)

The central message of Christmas is all about life. That's the very reason why our Lord Jesus Christ chose to be born into our world to live with us. EMMANUEL. God with us; God is on our side. It's all about life.